College Students In Addiction Recovery: Tips & Resources

College campuses are known for being home to a heavy drinking and drug use culture. But many higher education institutions are proving that it doesn’t have to be this way.

To better accommodate students in recovery from addiction, and deter harmful substance use behaviors, many colleges have developed collegiate recovery programs.

Collegiate recovery programs, also known as collegiate recovery communities, serve to provide support for students who are in recovery from substance abuse problems.

How Many College Students Are Affected By Addiction?

In 2020, an estimated 24 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 25 in the United States — or roughly eight million people — had a substance use disorder.

That’s according to data collected through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

That survey also found:

  • 15.6 percent of people aged 18 to 25 had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • 14.6 percent of people aged 18 to 25 had an illicit drug use disorder .
  • The number of young adults aged 18 to 25 who used prescription pain relievers for the first time has declined.
  • Just 1.3 percent, or 445,000 young adults ages 18 to 25 reported receiving any substance abuse treatment in the past year.

What Is The Most Common Addiction Among College Students?

The misuse of prescription drugs, stimulants, and experimentation with illicit drugs is a known problem among college-aged people in the U.S.

Common substances of abuse include:

  • alcohol
  • marijuana
  • benzodiazepines
  • prescription stimulants (e.g. “study drugs” like Adderall)
  • illicit stimulants (e.g. cocaine, meth)
  • hallucinogens (e.g. ecstasy/MDMA, DMT)
  • prescription opioids 

What Types Of Support Are Available For College Students In Recovery?

Many colleges and universities have developed initiatives to help ensure sober students feel comfortable and supported on campus.

Campus resources for college students in recovery might include:

Collegiate Recovery Programs

More than 140 U.S. colleges and universities have a “collegiate recovery program,” according to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.

What is a collegiate recovery program? The ARHE defines this as an institutionally sanctioned program for students in recovery from substance use disorders.

What this might offer:

  • dedicated staff to help students with SUD
  • peer support services
  • a dedicated space on campus for SUD recovery support
  • relapse prevention support
  • health and wellness activities

Drug Addiction Recovery Support Groups

Many colleges offer on-campus support groups for SUD or mental illness, or resources for finding off-campus/virtual support group options.

On-campus group therapy may be offered by a student health center or counseling center. Specialty groups, like gender-specific groups or dual diagnosis groups, may also be offered.

Off-campus or virtual support groups might include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Non-12 step groups
  • Online recovery communities (e.g. Reddit Recovery, In The Rooms, SMART Recovery)

School Counseling Services

Many colleges offer student health services that include counseling for drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, or trauma.

Access To Off-Campus Substance Abuse Treatment

Student service departments or healthcare centers may be able to recommend resources for additional or more intensive help for a substance use problem off campus.

For example, counselors, psychiatrists, detox, outpatient addiction treatment centers, or a residential rehab center.

Tips For College Students In Recovery

Navigating your recovery journey while also pursuing a higher education degree isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

Here are some tips for succeeding and thriving in your recovery as a college student:

Avoid The College Partying Scene

If drug or alcohol use is a trigger for you, try to avoid parties or other social gatherings where you either know or have reason to believe these substances will be present.

There are other ways to have fun and connect with others in college beyond the party scene — and those activities will be less likely to pose a threat to your recovery.

Know Your Triggers

There are many potential triggers/stressors in college life that can be difficult for the average person to deal with, let alone someone who has a history of turning to drugs or alcohol.

But identifying your triggers and finding strategies to cope with them when and if they do arise is crucial for maintaining your progress and staying on the recovery path.

Examples might include:

  • tight deadlines
  • roommate issues
  • financial concerns
  • relationship problems
  • substance use behaviors of others (e.g. binge-drinking)
  • peer pressure to drink/use drugs
  • adjusting to a new living environment
  • adjusting to your new academic schedule
  • drug or alcohol cravings
  • co-occurring health problems

Focus On What’s Important

The college experience isn’t about experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Focus on what’s important: this is an opportunity to further your education and pursue your goals. 

Explore Sober Activities On Or Off Campus

Consider getting involved with a club or organization on-campus that organizes drug-free activities, like a comedy club, drama club, musical groups, fitness, or coding.

If your school lacks these options, consider starting a club of your own or finding a club off-campus through a community center or other recovery-oriented group.

Make Use Of Campus Support

If your college campus has a dedicated recovery program for students or college recovery community, don’t be shy. 

Make use of the behavioral health resources you have available to you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Your health, well-being, and recovery is worth it.

Resources For College Students In Recovery

Many colleges and universities offer resources on their websites, or on campus for students. In addition, there are also online resources geared towards college students in recovery.

Online resources for college students in recovery include:

Our Massachusetts treatment facility, Bedrock Recovery Center, also offers a number of resources online that could be helpful for students in recovery.

That includes our guide to insurance coverage for treatment and our guide to addiction and recovery in the LGBTQ+ community.

Call Today To Find Addiction Recovery Support In Massachusetts

At Bedrock, we offer both intensive and flexible treatment programs for young people who are at various stages in their addiction recovery process.

If you’re looking for additional support for yourself or a loved one with addiction, call our helpline to learn more about our treatment options today.

  1. U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — College Age & Young Adults
  2. U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): College Drinking Prevention — College Drinking
  3. US Health News — Colleges Offer Recovery Programs for Students Battling Addiction
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the U.S. Results from the 2020 NSDUH

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: September 14, 2022

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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