LGBTQIA+ People and the Drug War

The majority of the criminal legal system was set up with heterosexual, cisgender men in mind. Policymakers often neglect to consider the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ people. The war on drugs significantly impacts these communities and the Drug Policy Alliance is committed to ensuring they are included in our reform efforts.

Problematic Substance Use and Treatment Programs

LGBTQIA+ individuals have significantly higher vulnerability to problematic substance use. Every study done has shown higher rates of drug use and misuse compared to heterosexual individuals due to less family support, greater rates of mental health issues, a response to social oppression, and targeted advertising.

Residential treatment programs for problematic substance use are often structured by gender, with few places for those who don’t fit binary gender boxes. Many treatment programs are based in religious ideology and are not accepting of LGBTQIA+ communities.

Police Surveillance and Incarceration

Drugs or suspected drug use are often used as reasons for increased police surveillance of LGBTQIA+ spaces, both public and private. LGBTQIA+ sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and arrest under these pretenses, especially if they are transgender, people of color, or both. 

Incarceration is not healthy for anyone, but prisons and jails are particularly dangerous for LGBTQIA+ individuals. They are disproportionately subject to violence, rape and discrimination. Transgender individuals are denied their very identity when they are placed in a prison population that does not match their self-identified gender.

Our Priorities

The Drug Policy Alliance is working to reduce the devastating effects of the drug war on LGBTQIA+ people. We advocate for:

  • Changing drug-related policies, laws and attitudes to ensure the safety, liberty and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Offering secular, queer-positive treatment options to help meet the needs of LGBTQIA+ people struggling with problematic drug use
  • Keeping drug-involved transgender people out of the criminal legal system when at all possible, and ensuring that if they are sent to prison they are placed in the gender population that most accurately reflects their self-defined identity and reduces the possibility of violence, rape and discrimination
The Queer Agenda DPA shirt