Up until fairly recently, recovering addicts in college had no other option than to pursue outside help for their substance abuse problems. Nowadays, sober students who are trying to live life substance free have access to many support options within their own universities.
These sober support in college programs offer counseling, social support networks, and sometimes even financial support to students in recovery. There are a wide variety of reasons why universities are choosing to help their students maintain sobriety.
Substance Abuse in College
Substance abuse is a serious issue that most colleges are now being forced to reckon with. 54.9% of college students have consumed alcohol in the last month. One third of all college students regularly engage in binge drinking. Not only is overall consumption of alcohol higher among college students, but the prevalence of dug and alcohol abuse is higher as well.
The deleterious effects of this behavior include poor academic performance, mental health burdens, as well as increased criminality. Most colleges have discovered that it is far cheaper and easier to treat substance abuse and offer aid to young adults in the throes of addiction than it is to deal with the consequences of addiction.
Alcohol Abuse in College Students
College students abuse substances for many reasons. Many feel that college is a time to let loose and experiment. For many college freshmen, the first year in college may very well be the first year away from parental supervision. Depictions of college life in the media often lead people to expect and look forward to a drinking culture as well.
But for many students, it isn’t simply a matter of reveling in newfound freedom and camaraderie. Academic and social pressure can make escapist behavior tempting. Binge drinking can seem like a quick way of becoming accepted in a new peer group.
It also can appear to be a temporary fix for anxiety and depression. For students with undiagnosed mental health disorders, self-medicating with alcohol is usually the first recourse.
Sober Support in College
Treatment Programs at the University
While mental health services have been offered by most colleges for some time now, on-campus services devoted specifically to recovery are something entirely novel. A number of California colleges now offer designated recovery centers.
UCLA’s Collegiate Recovery Center offers a lounge for sober students to relax, study, and enjoy each other’s company. This safe space is a haven for sober students on campus. It also gives them opportunities to connect with each other. UCLA’s Recovery Center also offers counseling, scholarships for students in recovery, as well as regular 12-step meetings on campus. For students interested in other programs for recovery, drug and alcohol counselors are available to help explore the options.
USC actually requires incoming freshmen to take an alcohol abuse prevention course. The course, called AlcoholEdu, allows students to become educated about addiction and treatment options. USC also has sober housing residences for recovering students and an outpatient center with drug and alcohol counselors. For students more interested in a harm-reduction model, their Mentoring and Monitoring Program (M&M) uses peer support to help students obtain improved balance in their lives.
San Diego State University has a program called Aztecs for Recovery. This program distinguishes itself by focusing not just on recovery for people suffering from addiction, but helping friends and family who consider themselves allies to addicts. This program offers support as well as organizing events for students in recovery.
UC Santa Barbara has long been known as a “party school” that hosts enormous parties where booze flows freely. Their student health center offers many services to help counteract the negative effects of such partying.
These services include regular 12-step meetings, self-assessment tools, drug and alcohol counseling, and resources for faculty who may be noticing student having problems. It is notable that UCSB encourages students to get help not just for alcohol, but for a wide variety of substances that they may be having problems with.
Their student health center also organizes fun events for students in recovery, from parties to weekend camping trips.
Seeking Treatment Outside the University
While collegiate recovery programs allow many students to function at a higher level in college and get the support they need, it is sometimes also important to seek outside help. More serious addicts might benefit from enrolling in an inpatient program to detox.
This can entail taking a brief hiatus from university studies. Other programs that can also aid students seeking long term sobriety include halfway houses, and sober living houses.
Sober houses for students can be a great intermediate step between early recovery and “the real world,” and many students have achieved academic success while also living in a sober living home.