Introduction: This study explored whether structural stigma, defined by U.S. state policies related to sexual minority rights, moderated the relationship between sexual identity identity and heavy drinking, alcohol problems, and marijuana use among men and women.
Methods: Using combined data from the National Alcohol Survey (NAS) series (2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015), the sample included 11,115 men (421 sexual minority and 10,694 heterosexual) and 14,395 women (413 sexual minority and 13,982 heterosexual). State policy environment was assessed using a time-varying dichotomous indicator of comprehensive protections for sexual minorities (4-6 protections vs. limited or no protections). Gender-stratified logistic regression analyses examined the differential effect of the policy environment by sexual identity on three past-year substance use outcomes: high-intensity drinking (8+ drinks/day), any DSM-5 alcohol use disorder, and marijuana use.
Results: Among women, sexual minority status was associated with increased odds of all alcohol and marijuana use outcomes. Among men, sexual minority status was associated with decreased odds of high-intensity drinking but increased use of marijuana. Comprehensive policy protections were associated significantly decreased odds of high-intensity drinking among sexual minority men and marginally significant decreases among women.
Conclusions: Comprehensive policy protections appear to be protective for high-intensity drinking among sexual minority men and women. Findings underscore the importance of supportive policies in reducing risk of alcohol-related problems among sexual minorities.