Scottish Parliament debates GCU study on alcohol problems in LGBTQ+ community

A debate will take place in the Scottish Parliament today (May 11) about alcohol problems in Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community, highlighted in a study carried out by experts at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

MSPs are meeting for a Members’ Business Debate on recommendations made by GCU’s Substance Use Research Group in a recent report funded by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).

Emma Roddick, MSP for Highlands and Islands and Co-Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s LGBTI+ Cross Party Group, will lead the debate on how services for people with alcohol problems in the LGBTQ+ community can be made more effective in meeting their specific needs.

The motion for debate endorses recommendations contained in the What are LGBTQ+ people’s experiences of alcohol services in Scotland? A qualitative study of service users and service providers’ report, led by Professor Carol Emslie with Dr Elena Dimova, Dr Rosaleen O’Brien, Professor Lawrie Elliott and Dr Jamie Frankis, from the University’s Substance Use and Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses research groups in the Research Centre for Health (ReaCH). 

The report investigates both service users’ and providers’ experiences, and highlights the central role of alcohol in the LGBTQ+ community and the barriers that this community faces when trying to access treatment and support.

Barriers include alcohol service providers feeling uncomfortable discussing gender and sexuality, despite LGBTQ+ individuals believing that their identity was often linked to their drinking problem.

The recommendations in the report that are recognised in the motion, include:

  • Alcohol services should demonstrate appropriate inclusivity and diversity policies, LGBTQ+ training, and work towards the LGBT Charter
  • Alcohol services need stronger links to mental health services
  • LGBTQ+ people should be considered as a group with specific needs in the forthcoming Alcohol Treatment Guidelines
  • Alcohol-free spaces for LGBTQ+ people should be supported
  • The Scottish Parliament should show leadership on LGBTQ+ issues to help tackle the stigma that people face

Professor Emslie said: “We know that LGBTQ+ communities are at higher risk of alcohol-related harm, so it is important to learn about their experiences of alcohol services in Scotland.

“Our respondents reported their drinking was often a response to discrimination, family rejection or hiding their LGBTQ+ identity, but that service providers rarely explored how sexuality or gender identity might impact on alcohol use.

“Our report recommends that all staff working in alcohol services should receive LGBTQ+ diversity training and services should check they are reaching the LGBTQ+ community, and tailoring their services appropriately.

“At a broader level, alcohol-free spaces for LGBTQ+ people where drinking heavily is not the norm, and increased public acceptance of LGBTQ+ issues would reduce alcohol harm in this community.”

Ms Roddick said she was looking forward to hearing from the Scottish Government on how they will take the recommendations forward and ensure that LGBTQ+ people in Scotland are better supported when trying to get support to deal with alcohol problems

“Given the disproportionate harms from alcohol that LGBTQ+ people experience – for a range of complex reasons – it’s clear that services designed to help people deal with and recover from their alcohol problems should ensure they are as effective as possible for the LGBTQ+ community. I’m pleased this report makes some clear recommendations on ways to do this.”

SHAAP Director Elinor Jayne commented: “It is imperative that the needs of LGBTQ+ people are explicitly addressed in the upcoming Scottish Government Alcohol Treatment Guidance in order to tackle these inequalities and reduce the stigma experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals in accessing alcohol treatment services.

“The Scottish Parliament should show leadership in generating more public understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and reduce the stigma they experience, so I’m pleased this debate is taking place today as that’s one way of demonstrating leadership.

“I hope the Scottish Government responds positively and does all it can to work with Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and others in the field to ensure their services are inclusive of and effective for Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community.”

GCU’s research strategy is underpinned by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The study contributes to the Goals of gender equality, reduced inequalities, and good health and wellbeing.

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