Chicago Holds Forum on LGBT Substance Use Among Seniors

Over 30 professionals from healthcare, counseling or social service providers attended a March 17 round-table discussion on substance use held by the Chicago Task Force on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Aging, the Windy City Times reported on March 29.


In the LGBT community, patients are generally categorized a seniors at age 50, according to the forum moderator, Dr. Martin J. Gorbien, director of the Section of Geriatric Medicine at Rush University Medicine Hospital.


Research specifically targeting the aging LGBT population is underfunded, despite a lack of specific knowledge about this patient group and the multiple barriers to care it experiences, according to Kenis Williams of the Haymarket Center.


Existing training textbooks contain only very brief sections on health issues specific to the LGBT population and offer no information on substance use among the senior LGBT community. LGBT seniors commonly avoid seeing a physician because of perceived or real ageism, homophobia and unfamiliarity with discussing sexual orientation issues, Williams said.


Smoking rates are up to 70 percent higher in the LGBT community, according to panelist Pamela McCann of the Office of LGBT Health at the Chicago Department of Public Health. Customized interventions emphasizing adverse health effects can reduce these rates, said McCann.


LGBT seniors are also more prone to suffer from loneliness and depression than the general population because their primary relationships are not legally recognized, according to Dr. Will Wong, medical director of the City of Chicago's STD & HIV program..


Approximately 10 percent of LGBT seniors aged 50 to 75 abuse methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine, compared to 1.8 percent of the general population, reported Paul Fressola, a psychotherapist at the Howard Brown Health Center, where the forum was held.

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