Women who find themselves in the LGBT category are at a heightened risk of drug abuse which becomes visible around the age of 13, reveals a new study.
The findings published in the Journal of LGBT Youth added that the odds of substance use among females who identify as sexual minorities is 400% higher than their heterosexual female peers.
“We saw this striking difference in substance use at age 13 and there was a rapid increase in the rate of cigarette and alcohol use from there,” said Sarah Dermody, the lead author.
Among youth, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are the three most commonly used drugs.
Past research has shown that sexual minority youth reported nearly three times more substance use than heterosexual youth. This disparity may be due in part to stress from discrimination, violence and victimization rooted in their sexual minority status, Dermody said.
The pattern of increased substance use for youth saw a rise in the cases of women.
Using data from about 2,200 participants, a large, longitudinal study of the lives of urban girls, researchers examined substance use among females over time from age 13 to 20, comparing those who identified as heterosexual to those identifying as lesbian/gay or bisexual.
They looked at when disparities in use between heterosexual and sexual minority identifying females began to emerge; rates of change over time for both groups; and how rates change as the girls approach young adulthood.
The researchers found that disparities were already present at age 13. The difference in use between heterosexual and sexual minority girls persisted and increased as they entered their 20s.
Dermody said, “It’s already a risky and vulnerable period for youths’ social development, and it’s also a vulnerable time for brain development.