Young people who are LGBTQ are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to use alcohol and other drugs. Research by the Human Rights Campaign & Partnership for Drug-Free Kids indicates that, compared to heterosexuals, young adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer have 1.3 times the odds of heavy alcohol use, 1.6 times the odds of marijuana use, 2.9 times the odds of injection drug use, and 3.3 times the odds of cocaine use.

For LGBTQ young people who are trying to cope with stigma, harassment and even rejection by their families, they are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to abuse drugs and alcohol. African-American youth and young adults, who are LGBTQ, also face additional stresses and challenges in integrating their sexual, racial, and ethnic identities.

What Do You Really Know About Alcohol & Drugs?
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Minimum Drinking Age

The minimum age to legally purchase and consume alcohol is 21 years old. Establishments that serve alcohol are required to ask you for an accepted form of photo identification to confirm that drinking patrons are at least 21 years of age before serving you.

Blood Alcohol Content Limit

For Maryland, .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) is considered legally intoxicated. Testing at or above this amount behind the wheel will result in a DUI (driving under the influence) citation.


The first step in reducing negative outcomes is to determine the amount of alcohol you consume. The key is to think in terms of “standard drinks.” In the United States, a “standard” drink is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of “pure” alcohol. That’s equivalent to a 12-oz. beer containing 5% alcohol, a 5-oz. glass of wine containing 12% alcohol, or a 1.5-oz. shot of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol); they all contain 0.6 ounces of alcohol.

Review this infographic to review what is a standard drink and what is more than a standard drink.



Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis Sativa. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. Extracts can also be made from the cannabis plant.

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in the United States, and its use is widespread among young people. In 2015, more than 11 million young adults ages 18 to 25 used marijuana in the past year, and marijuana is the second most common drug among U.S. teenagers. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level and is prohibited to anyone under the age of 21 in every state. Like alcohol and other drugs, marijuana is especially risky and can impair your judgment and decision-making. Marijuana can cause anxiety, and chronic use contributes to mental health problems and academic skills difficulties.

Synthetic marijuana, sometimes known as “K2” or “Spice,” have become very common among young adults. The risks associated with using synthetic marijuana include psychosis, dangerously high blood pressure, and seizures. Hospital emergency rooms and college campuses have seen a rise of psychotic episodes brought on by the use of synthetic marijuana.




The following are the ways that prescription drugs are misused and abused:

    • Taking someone else’s prescription medication. Even when someone takes another person’s medication for its intended purposes (such as to relieve pain, to stay awake, or to fall asleep) it is considered misuse.
    • Taking a prescription medication in a way other than prescribed. Taking your own prescription in a way that it is not meant to be taken is also misuse. This includes taking more of the medication than prescribed or changing its form—for example, breaking or crushing a pill or capsule and then snorting the powder.

  • Taking a prescription medication to get high. Some types of prescription drugs also can produce pleasurable effects or “highs.” Taking the medication only for the purpose of getting high is considered prescription drug misuse.
  • Mixing it with other drugs. In some cases, if you mix your prescription drug with alcohol and certain other drugs, it is considered misuse and it can be dangerous.


Young adults (age 18 to 25) are the biggest abusers of prescription (Rx) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs. They do it for all kinds of reasons, including to get high or because they think Rx stimulants will help them study better, but prescription drug abuse is dangerous and is currently considered a public health epidemic.

There are three kinds of prescription drugs that are commonly misused:

  • Opioids—used to relieve pain, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine
  • Depressants—used to relieve anxiety or help a person sleep, such as Valium or Xanax
  • Stimulants— used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall and Ritalin

In 2014, more than 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug (mainly opioid) overdoses. This is more than the number of young adults who died from overdoses of any other drug, including heroin and cocaine combined and a 4-fold increase from 1999.  Additionally, there are thousands of young adults that required emergency treatment and the number of prescription overdoses is rising each year.


Club drugs, also known as “designer drugs,” have risen to popularity in the last two decades – causing the LGBTQ community to feel the fallout of this epidemic. From trip-based drugs such as ecstasy to stimulants like methamphetamines, club drugs tend to be used to facilitate social and sexual interactions at dance clubs or underground parties known as “raves.”  While many LGBTQ social settings exist in drug-free atmospheres, some dance settings exist where drug use is rampant, largely to induce relaxation and ongoing alertness in a party environment.

Types of Club / Party Drugs

Specific drugs have experienced widespread distribution at dance clubs and raves, among LGBTQ and straight individuals alike. However, many drug dealers take aim at the late-night, energetic atmosphere present at many LGBTQ clubs or privately hosted parties and use the desire for acceptance and connection among club-goers to get them to buy the club / party drugs. Here are a few of the most commonly used club drugs within the LGBT Qcommunity:

Here are a few of the most commonly used club drugs within the LGBT community:

  • Ecstasy

    Ecstasy, also known known as MDMA, has been a mainstay of the club drug circuit since the early 1990s. Acting on the brain’s neurochemicals, the drug produces a high release of serotonin, causing users to feel sensory and emotional euphoria. However, in addition to implications of the drug in depression and other mental health disorders, ecstasy can lead to death by dehydration, particularly in the hot, energetic setting of dance clubs.

  • Ketamine

    A strong dissociative drug, ketamine leads to perceptual changes, hallucinations and lowered reservations. Unfortunately, ketamine use can also lead to memory impairment and difficulty moving, leading to its involvement in sexual assault cases.

  • Methamphetamines

    A stimulant that lowers inhibitions, methamphetamines use has become popular in the gay community. As such, meth use has been associated with risk-taking behaviors such as unsafe sexual practices and intravenous drug use, with one in five meth users in the LGBTQ community testing positive for HIV infection.

  • Cocaine

    Cocaine is another popular stimulant used as a club drug in the LGBTQ community, largely because it provides both confidence and energy.

  • GHB

    Known as “liquid ecstasy,” GHB creates types of intoxication similar to those that come by drinking. However, increased dosages can lead to psychotic breaks or severe memory loss. GHB, which is a colorless liquid, is also known as “the date rape drug so it’s very important that you never leave your beverage unattended.

Consequences of Club Drugs

Many club drugs can quickly lead to addiction, even when single-occasion use is intended. Consequences of club drug addiction can include compromised judgment and the lowering of social inhibitions. In the worst cases, LGBTQ individuals may fall victim to drug overdose, unsafe and risky sexual encounters and even become victims of sexual assaults and verbal and physical violence while inebriated.


Research indicates that brain development is still in progress during adolescence, with significant changes continuing into the early 20s. Immature brain regions place teenagers at elevated risk to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Brain maturation tends to occur from the back of the brain to the front. The front region of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for high-level reasoning, decision-making and impulse control, does not become fully mature until around the early to mid-20s.

The impact of drugs and alcohol on the developing brain of teens and young adults can have harmful effects on academic, occupational and social functioning that can extend into adulthood. Consuming alcohol can change the brain’s structure and functions: altering blood flows, electrical activity, and the formation of one’s adult personality and behavior. Damage from alcohol for young people can be long-term and irreversible.

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