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Bisexual women are the most likely to misuse opiods in the US

Bisexual women are the most likely to misuse opiods in the US

Woman taking pills at a table

A new study from the New York University School of Medicine reveals opiod misuse in the United States is highest amongst bisexual women.

Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the report examines the relationship that exists — if any — between sexual orientation and prescription opiod misuse and use disorder.

The authors used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2015. That was the first year the NSDUH included questiongs about sexual orientation. It comprises answers from people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Health officials define misuse as the use of opiods ‘without one’s own prescription; using in greater amounts, more often, or for longer than directed; or use in any way not directed by a doctor’.

They further define opiod use disorder, meanwhile, as ‘abuse or dependence in the past year’.

The findings

People who identified as bisexual, and especially female-identifying bisexuals, reported higher rates of opiod misuse across the board.

For opiod misuse in the past year, 12% of all bisexual respondents gave a positive answer, compared to 4.5% of heterosexual people and 8.6% gay or lesbian people.

Among bisexual women, 13.5% responded yes to this question, compared to 3.7% of straight women and 6.8% of lesbians.

For opiod misuse in the past month, 4.4% of all bisexuals responded yes. Broken down, 2.4% bisexual men and 5.1% bisexual women gave a positive response.

Overall, this is compared to 1.3% of straight people and 1.7% of gay and lesbian individuals.

Finally, bisexual people also reported the highest amounts of opiod use disorder in the last year. 2.2% responded yes, compared to 0.7% of straight people and 1.8% of gay men and lesbians.

This is the only category where bisexual men reported higher positive responses than bisexual women, with 2.7% of men responding yes and only 2.1% of women.

The only place where bisexual-identifying people did not rank highest was among males and past-year opiod misuse. For this category, 10% of gay men responded yes, compared to 8.3% of bisexual men.

Why does this disparity exist?

As the authors posit in their conclusion, ‘members of minority groups tend to experience a greater degree of stress because of personal and vicarious experiences of stigma and discrimination, and that this additional stress may predispose individuals to increased rates of maladaptive coping behaviors, including substance use’.

Bisexual women face this in disproportionately high amounts.

‘In not fully belonging to either “straight” or “lesbian” circles, they may experience both homophobia from heterosexual individuals and biphobia from lesbians,’ the authors contend.

This could be why opiod use among bisexual women is so high even though among women in general, it’s relatively low.

Author Dustin Duncan added: ‘People who have less privilege and power generally have worse health. This isn’t a fluke or a one-time finding. It tends to be systematic.’

Other studies confirm this hypothesis.

Past reports have indicated bisexual women face higher risks of partner abuse, heart disease, and rape. They also have the worst access to a regular doctor.

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