Transgender teen study reveals shocking substance abuse statistics

Cold medicine on a shelf

A new study has discovered that transgender teenagers are twice as likely to have substance abuse issues than their cisgender peers.

Writing in the Journal of School Health, the study from Chapman University examined data from hundreds of schools in California and discovered this alarming trend.

The study covered nearly 5,000 transgender students and over 600,000 cisgender students over a period of two years.

Transgender student Sorrel Rosin (R) poses with a friend

Transgender activists at a march in Chicago (Photo :DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

It looked at recent, in-school and lifetime use of a number of substances, including cocaine and ecstasy, prescription medications and cough medicine.

The study pointed to the social difficulties that trans teens face, saying: “Transgender adolescents face tremendous social stress in families and schools, which often leads to behavioural health disparities.”

Trans individuals report higher rates of bullying and harassment, with a recent report highlighting that transgender people in Scotland were facing record rates of attacks carried out by children, prompting fears that trans students were being targeted by their peers.

The murder rate for transgender people is significantly higher than for their cisgender counterparts, with trans women of colour most affected. This month, Gwynevere River Song became the 17th recorded transgender person to be killed in the US in 2017.

According to the study, trans students were over twice as likely as cisgender students to use cocaine or methamphetamine at some point in their life, and over three times as likely to use cigarettes during school.

Susie Green, on behalf of trans youth charity Mermaids, told PinkNews: “The findings from this study come as no surprise, especially when taken in context with the recent Stonewall figures in terms of bullying, self-harm and suicidality.

“Transgender students face discrimination and prejudice, with 1 in 9 pupils receiving death threats. Coping mechanisms when living in a hostile environment will be many and varied, and unfortunately, the use of drugs and alcohol is a route that many young people turn to in times of stress.”

Another study from the University of California, Los Angeles determined that LGBT+ people are more likely to seek treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse.

Trans students were also twice as likely to report having misused prescription drugs within the previous month.

Head researcher Dr Kris De Pedro stated: “We wanted to assess whether rates of substance use were higher among transgender adolescents when compared with non-transgender adolescents.

“Our study’s findings indicate a need for community and school-based interventions that reduce substance abuse among transgender youth.



“Drug use in youth has long-reaching effects into adulthood.”

A related study in 2016 found that LGBT+ people drink and smoke more than their heterosexual counterparts.

The same study determined that LGBT+ people are more likely to suffer from depression, with 40 percent of bisexuals of all genders having had the illness at some point in their lives.

Mermaids continued: “All this evidence goes towards the growing recognition of a need to increase education and support, and to ensure that transgender children and young people are respected and accepted as members of the human race, just like everyone else. If this doesn’t happen then the future is bleak.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that changes are made and our young people are protected and nurtured, not excluded and ignored, or even worse, attacked and abused, just for being themselves.”