College and Recovery


As the summer months come to a close, there’s a certain level of anxiety that goes along with returning or starting school.  For those going off to college for the first time or returning to college, the level of anxiety can be intensified if you are doing it clean and sober. College has a certain stigma attached to it, that it’s total freedom and a place to party. This kind of environment can be particularly challenging and triggering for someone in recovery. Not only are they tackling the day to day college life of academics, possibly sports, and their social scene, they are also tackling sobriety every single day.

Colleges and universities across the country are embarking in new journeys for those that are in recovery. Many colleges have provided sober dorms, which are designed for any individual seeking a housing environment free of substances, whether they are in recovery or not.

Some colleges are taking sober dorms a step further and are creating collegiate recovery programs. “A collegiate recovery program (CRP) is a supportive environment within the campus culture that reinforces the decision to disengage from addictive behavior. It is designed to provide an educational opportunity alongside recovery support to ensure that students do not have to sacrifice one for the other.”1

Paving the way for these new programs is the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE).  The missions of ARHE is to “change the trajectory of recovering students’ lives by connecting, developing, and sustaining collegiate recovery through collaboration, guidance, and expertise.”

Universities and colleges throughout the nation are beginning to implement these programs to support students in higher education. The creation of these programs coincide the worst drug epidemic our nation has ever faced, where young adults are constantly falling victim to overdose and other adverse experiences due to substance use. Additionally, with the rise in admissions of young adults into substance abuse treatment facilities, it is imperative that these individuals have safe atmospheres where they can return to continue to advance their recovery while working towards other aspects of their life.

As the statistical data demonstrates, college students are at high risk of using, abusing, and developing a substance use disorder.  The rates of substance use disorders (SUD) triple from 7% in adolescence to 20% in early adulthood. 2 Moreover, the relapse rates are “high among individuals with substance use disorders (SUD), and for young people pursuing a college education, the high rates of substance use on campus can jeopardize recovery.”3

We still have a long way to go in providing individuals in recovery with safe environments, especially with the abundance and availability of alcohol and other substances, however, innovative programs such as this are beginning to pave the way.
2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011
Characteristics of students participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs: A national survey

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