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Meeting the Needs of Students in Recovery

According to SAMHSA, from 1999 to 2009, the number of students age 18 to 24 seeking treatment for substance abuse more than doubled. Not surprising, in a 2002 report, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes U.S. college campuses as enabling a culture of drinking. Staying drug-free and sober in this environment is a major challenge for students who are in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction. Which is why EDC’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention, begins its third year of a four-year contract with an additional focus to support campus relapse prevention programs and students in recovery.

“About six percent of college students are alcohol dependent,” says Tracy Downs, associate Center director. “College presents significant challenges to them to succeed socially and academically. In order to support students in recovery, relapse prevention should be incorporated into colleges’ overall alcohol and other drug abuse prevention strategy.”

Students in treatment and recovery have traditionally been advised to steer clear of campus, live at home, and commute to class. Many postpone college, fearing the temptation to relapse. A growing number of universities, led by Texas Tech University, Rutgers University, and Augsburg College, are making it easier for these students, creating on-campus “recovery communities,” which can include sober-student hangouts and residence halls, “dry” recreational opportunities, special academic support, and recovery meetings and courses. According to an August Wall Street Journal story some students can even earn scholarships from their university for maintaining good grades and sobriety.

“Texas Tech, Rutgers, and Augsburg are the real trailblazers in this area,” says Downs. “Directors from those three campus programs are Center Fellows and will be helping us develop a webinar and training institute. These Center Fellows will be instrumental in helping us to fulfill our new tasks.”

This summer about 20 colleges formed the Association for Recovery in Higher Education. To support these schools and other university programs, EDC’s Higher Education Center has added customized technical assistance opportunities, an additional training institute, and a webinar on relapse prevention scheduled for October 26.

“It’s a student population whose needs more and more campuses are starting to address,” says Downs, “and a key priority at the Department of Education, the White House, and other federal agencies.”

The Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention was managed by EDC and funded by the U.S. Department of Education.