Substance-abuse disparity seen with sexual-minority women

Among women in study, reciprocal patterns between alcohol and tobacco use are strongest among bisexuals.

Concurrent alcohol and tobacco use increases the risk of illness and disease.  Recently published research sought to identify patterns of concurrent alcohol and tobacco use (both substances on the same day) and the settings for this use among lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women.

Published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, the findings showed that, during the study span, bisexual women self-reported smoking more cigarettes while drinking and having more alcoholic drinks while smoking (reciprocal relationships) than were reported by lesbian and heterosexual women.

Jessica Blayney
Jessica Blayney is a UW postdoc in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“We know that sexual-minority women, especially bisexual women, are at risk for heavy drinking and tobacco use, but we know less about concurrent alcohol and tobacco use. We were interested in this and how situational context might influence use,” said Jessica Blayney, a study co-author and postdoc in psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The study comprised 84 days of online surveys collected from nearly 250 young adult lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual women. Women reported daily counts of cigarettes smoked, alcoholic drinks consumed, and details such as location and whether they were alone or with someone else.

Although sexual minority and heterosexual women did not differ in the proportion of drinking days during the study span, sexual-minority women had more alcohol on the days they drank compared with heterosexual women. Sexual-minority women also smoked more days and had more cigarettes on smoking days. They also reported more concurrent alcohol and tobacco use days.

“The social environment is contributing to concurrent use – for lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women,” Blayney said, “and this might inform how interventions target social contexts to reduce that risk.”

The study was funded by the National Institute of Justice and was led by Amy Hequembourg, associate professor at the University of Buffalo (NY) School of Nursing. See more details and statements from Hequembourg in the University of Buffalo’s news release

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