Due to our country’s current opioid crisis, plus the lure of other substances and subsequent development of substance abuse disorders, it’s no surprise that there are many thousands of college students that have suffered from addiction in the past, and who now are in recovery from addiction.
Although drug and alcohol abuse among teens is on the decline, thankfully, there are still many young people who fall victim to drug addiction or alcoholism before they even officially reach adulthood. Fortunately, many of them do realize early on that they have a problem and, often along with the help of family, end up seeking help, entering rehab, attending support groups, and begin taking steps along a clean, sober, and healthy path. When someone turns their whole life around at such a young age, it is inspiring and undoubtedly praiseworthy by anyone’s standards and should be celebrated. Life can go on, and its wonders can be fully experienced and embraced.
Once young people have broken free from their substance abuse disorders and are ready to move on with their lives in a positive way, it’s no surprise that many of them wish to attend college, and in most cases, they should be encouraged to do so. The benefits of attending college are vast, and attendees and graduates will enjoy those benefits for the rest of their lives.
Read on to learn about some of the challenges of college for individuals in recovery, and exactly what higher learning institutions are doing to support these students.
Challenges of College in Recovery
As anyone who has attended college can tell you, the physical place of college and the general coming-of-age time of life that goes with it can be full of temptations and of opportunities to make bad choices. Not only is higher education stressful and demanding – two likely potential triggers for people in recovery – but the social aspect of it often centers on drug and alcohol consumption for many students. Most college students enjoy partying now and then, and there is often a great deal of peer pressure to indulge along with them. It’s not intentional, not malicious – it’s simply what American college culture has become.
Students in recovery who wish to attend college face many challenges. Obviously, anyone with the right mindset and drive can succeed in school and graduate with a degree. However, students in recovery certainly benefit when there are support services available to them.
Fortunately, more and more higher education institutions are recognizing this. Many schools have developed their own support programs for their students in recovery. The inclusion of support groups, drug and alcohol-free dormitories and housing options, and on-campus counseling are steps in the right direction. Both the United States Department of Education and the Office of National Drug Control Policy have recommended and encouraged this, and as the opioid epidemic continues to grow, advance, and expand, more colleges are working to make programs like these a reality.
Collegiate Recovery Programs
There’s an official name for these programs – collegiate recovery programs (CRPs). Today, there are 136 of these programs are operating in schools around the country. This is a huge increase in a short time; in 2012, there were only about a dozen. Official members of this group are overseen by the larger Association of Recovery in Higher Education.
What makes a CRP a CRP? Well, there are a number of factors. First and most importantly, a collegiate recovery program must exist within an institute of higher education that confers academic degrees. Second, by definition, these are non-profit institutions dedicated to learning and research that accept students who wish to gain skills or knowledge.
Third, collegiate recovery programs must embrace the concept of abstinence-based recovery as the standard of addiction recovery. They also must have paid, qualified, trained, and dedicated staff, employed by the school, and they must aid students in their recovery through support groups, one-on-one counseling, and other support services.
Furthermore, schools that sign on to offer an official collegiate recovery program must provide a dedicated physical space for students in recovery to gather and offer support to one another. They must foster and encourage a collegiate recovery community for students in recovery from substance abuse as the primary focus.
Services Supportive of Collegiate Recovery
If a college cannot meet all of these parameters, they can still participate in a slightly different way. Some colleges instead offer sober housing on or near campus that includes all of the above, but that is instead operated by outside organizations that can meet all of the above criteria. This way, the school still offers collegiate recovery but is not directly responsible for the application of the program itself. Programs such as these are not official collegiate recovery programs and will not be included on the Association of Recovery in Higher Education’s website, but they are supportive of students and are at certainly effective to a degree.
In either case, it’s promising and hopeful to see so many schools recognizing this unique and vital need for a portion of their student bodies. Although not every student in the school will utilize these services, they will be incredibly helpful for the students who do. Clearly, anyone who is working on his or her recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol will be more likely to choose a school with an active CRP school when seeking success in higher education. With the support of groups like these, more students will be able to focus more on their education, without falling victim to triggers and relapse that can keep them from their dreams.
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