Keg parties and other forms of heavy drinking have long been considered a normal part of college life. However, with growing awareness of the problems caused by alcohol abuse, the college recovery movement is gaining strength and having an increasing impact on campuses across the United States, according to a new research update issued by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
The work-hard play-hard college environment can present major challenges for students in recovery from addiction, the report notes. Some students who fear endangering their recovery opt to drop out of school rather than face the risk of relapse. One of the missions of collegiate recovery programs (CRP) is to help students continue their education while maintaining their recovery.
According to the Association for Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE), CRPs generally offer onsite sober housing, self-help (12-step) meetings, and counseling provided by a small staff.
According to the ARHE, the collegiate recovery school movement started with the development of school-based recovery support services at Brown University (1977) and Rutgers University (1983) and evolved into more fully developed recovery communities at Texas Tech University (Center for the Study of Addictions, 1986) and Augsburg College (StepUP Program, 1997)¦
In recent years, more colleges have started offering some form of support for collegiate recovery programs. Among the most well-known, established programs in the U.S. are the Collegiate Recovery Community at Texas Tech University and the StepUP program at Augsburg College in Minnesota. They have served as models for the development of a number of other programs. Today, there are approximately 100 collegiate recovery programs across the United States, according to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.
Recent growth in collegiate recovery programs can be partially attributed to increased attention from state legislators. A recently passed bill in Maryland requires that schools in the University System of Maryland establish an on-campus CRP for students in recovery from alcohol and other drug use problems.
Similarly, New Jersey legislation passed in 2015 requires public universities to offer substance-free recovery housing if at least 25 percent of students live on campus.
Much of the college recovery movement’s momentum is due to support and advocacy from those who have benefited from the CRPs, according to the ARHE. The exact number of college students in recovery is not known. However, there are approximately 250,000 college students in the United States who have ever received treatment for alcohol or other drug use, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive.
Meanwhile, an estimated 37 percent of college students engage in binge drinking and nearly 1 million U.S. college students meet standard clinical criteria for current alcohol or other drug dependence, according to Archive data.
Along with the growth of CRPs, there is more evidence that public awareness of collegiate alcohol abuse as a public health concern has grown. expanding recovery support services in academic settings was named as a priority by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of National Drug Control Policy and also recognized in the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health
Research supported by the Center for Study of Addictions and Recovery, National Development and Research Institute, found that nearly one-third of students joined CRPs because they offer a safe space on campus for recovery.
“Data from our cross-sectional, nationwide survey are encouraging,” says Alexandre Laudet, director emeritus at the Center. “They show that CRPs offer students entering university a ready-made, same-age peer support network without which coping with a new, often ‘abstinence-hostile’ environment and with the pressures of college life would be highly stressful.”