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A literature review of the epidemiology and interventions research for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people with alcohol, drug and/or mental health problems

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Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

NSW Department of Health

Project Members: 
Dr Natacha Carragher
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
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Dr Francis Matthew-Simmons
Research Associate
Project Main Description: 

With NSW having the largest GLBT community in Australia, it is important that responses to the problems faced by these populations (including a higher risk of drug use and mental health problems) are informed by research evidence. 


This project has two aims. Firstly, to review the prevalence of problematic drug use and psychological disorders among GLBT populations. Secondly, from the existing literature, identify effective interventions regarding these issues among these populations.

Design and Method: 

The project consists of a comprehensive review of existing Australian and international literature focused on the prevalence of problematic drug use, psychological disorder, and comorbidity in GLBT populations. Literature included published academic literature as well as grey literature. We also conducted original analyses of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being, and used data analysis completed by colleagues at NDARC from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Existing data from Australian surveys was included. The review of potential interventions aimed at these populations was conducted through a systematic search on published academic literature, grey literature, and was informed by discussions with experts in the field.


In summary, all the Australian data confirms the international epidemiological evidence – elevated rates of mental health problems (such as anxiety and mood disorders) and alcohol or other drug dependencies are observed. In addition, the prevalence of suicide attempts is increased among GLBT populations.

In regards to the interventions literature, prevention is a priority principle with GLBT people; both AOD and MH problems are preventable, and interventions are likely to reduce the risk of later mental health or substance misuse problems. Preventing discrimination and stigma is also an essential aspect of any comprehensive approach to reducing AOD and MH problems amongst GLBT. All AOD and MH services should be GLBT-sensitive. This entails ensuring an adequately trained workforce, culturally appropriate services and a non-judgmental attitude by all staff across the service. The variety of treatment interventions, such as CBT, motivational interviewing, 12 step programs and the community reinforcement approach have all been shown to be effective with GLBT individuals.


The report, which was commissioned by NSW Health, was published in late 2012:

Ritter, A., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Carragher, N. (2012). Monograph No. 23: Prevalence of and interventions for mental health and alcohol and other drug problems amongst the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community: A review of the literature. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. (link below)


A related paper was also published in Drug and Alcohol Review:

Ritter, A., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Carragher, N. (2012). Why the alcohol and other drug community should support gay marriage. Drug and Alcohol Review, 31(1), 1-3. (link below)


This review will provide up to date information for policy makers and service providers on the epidemiological data relating to the GLBT population, and also discusses research findings on effective service delivery.

Project Status: 
Year Completed: