Eighteen years old sounds awfully young to have been through the torture of addiction and back. But by the end of high school, many adolescents have already hit rock bottom, received drug treatment and begun to rebuild their lives.
Like all people in early recovery, relapse is a persistent threat for youth. And the risk is even higher during stressful transitions such as starting college. A number of colleges throughout the country have responded to this growing need by introducing “recovery communities” – campus-based programs that offer counseling and support for youth in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.
Rewarding Positive Life Choices
Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock created one of the first recovery communities in 1986. Since then, the college has helped hundreds of youth in recovery earn bachelor’s degrees and has served as the model for recovery communities on other college campuses.
Whereas most colleges offer little support for youth in recovery, directing them to off-campus 12-Step meetings or providing only general counseling, services at college recovery communities typically include:
Within this culture of abstinence, some students even receive annual scholarships for staying sober and maintaining a certain grade point average. In exchange for these services, The Wall Street Journal reports that students must perform 10 hours of community service, agree to close monitoring and attend a class in relapse prevention each semester.
The program’s director, Kitty Harris, told The Wall Street Journal that the past 10 years have been an overwhelming success. Students have achieved:
A Solution to a Growing Problem
Admissions into addiction recovery programs are rising among 18- to 24-year-olds more rapidly than any other group, reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Binge drinking is highest among college students ages 20 to 22.
Fortunately for youth and their families, the number of college recovery communities is on the rise as well.
In 2008, Kennesaw State University in Georgia introduced a similar program, and others are following close behind. Penn State University and University of Michigan are launching college recovery programs that will serve addicted youth as well as adult children and siblings of addicts.
More important than location, activities or academic programs, many students attending colleges with recovery communities report choosing the school because of the unique support offered to youth in addiction recovery.
An Authentic College Experience Without the Partying
College is ripe with triggers for relapse and opportunities to use. Students cite stress, academic challenges, exposure to and availability of drugs and alcohol, and peer influences as the primary reasons for relapse during college.
“Recovery programs and other efforts of colleges and universities can help students from relapsing, as well as support them in meeting their higher education goals,” William Modzeleski, a U.S. Department of Education officer, told The Wall Street Journal.
Rather than living at home or postponing college until their recovery is more securely established – or worse, dropping out and returning to drug use – recovery communities give youth the opportunity to have a “traditional” college experience and hold onto their hard-won sobriety.