Charity workers say they are “deeply concerned” about the high amount of drugs taken by members of Brighton and Hove’s gay community.

Researchers at the University of Brighton discovered 33% of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community interviewed in a survey had used cannabis, while 24% had used ecstasy.

These figures compared to the national average of 8% for cannabis use and 1.6% for ecstasy.

A total of 22% of the 819 people who took part in the study had also taken cocaine, compared to the national average of 2.4%, according to figures compiled by the British Crime Survey.

Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, said it is concerned that LGBT people are more likely to take drugs than the population in general.

Brighton researchers carried out the study as part of a community university partnership project called Count Me In Too, which explored the views and experiences of LGBT people in Brighton and Hove.

It focused on a range of issues including drugs and alcohol, mental health, domestic violence and abuse.

Dr Kath Browne, who assisted in carrying out the research, said it had helped to gain information that could be used to affect social change for the LGBT community.

She said some of those interviewed, who were between the ages of 16 and 75, took drugs as a way of fitting into the LGBT scene.

She said: “There was an association of drugs and alcohol with principal forms of socialising and with social support.

“Some people may use them as a way of easing into the LGB community because they have experienced rejection in the past.

“It is a broad issue that has yet to be fully tackled to understand why people are engaging in these behaviours.”

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s head of policy and research, said: “It is not clear why LGBT people are more likely to take drugs than heterosexual people. It might be because there are very few alternatives for meeting other gay people except the scene.

“Stonewall is deeply concerned that LGB people are using drugs at a much higher rate than heterosexual people.

“Of greater concern however, is that gay people aren't seeking help. A fear of discrimination means that LGB people are less likely to go to their GP. If you are not telling your doctor the whole truth, then how can they help you?”

Graham Stevens, co-ordinator of the Brighton and Hove Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said measures are being put in place to help people who are using drugs.

He said: “The survey indicates that there is a higher proportion in the LGBT community than in the general population of people using certain illicit drugs and some evidence that drug - and alcohol - use are associated with feeling socially included in the gay scene.

“The team is actively working collaboratively with the LGBT community and is committed to ensuring that information and advice on substance misuse services are readily available.”

He added that funding has been agreed by NHS Brighton and Hove for two part-time LGBT community link workers to help substance misusers.