Sober living in universities is a challenging concept. Pregaming – binge-drinking before social or sporting events – is widespread, and can start as early as 8 am on the day of a big game. The parties take place anywhere; on fraternity porches and lawns, student house’s roofs and balconies, and undercover in dorms – everywhere but inside the academic halls.
While they vary from small student-run communities to large university-sponsored programs, the goal of sober living on campus is identical: to help their students stay sober while also excelling in college.
The rates of substance abuse triple from 5.2% in adolescence to 17.3% in early adulthood, according to a report by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2103. It makes this stage of development critical to young people’s success in the future. For Americans seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, no demographic is growing faster than college students age 18 to 24. During the first decade of the new century, addiction treatment providers indicate the number of students in that age range seeking treatment more than doubled, compared with a 9 percent jump in the 25-and-older group, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Sober Living on Campus
A decade ago, most college students with substance abuse problems had little help besides student health services and local Alcoholics Anonymous chapters. Things are changing. As of today, approximately 150 universities and colleges in 49 states offer collegiate recovery programs, providing students with community, counseling, and activities on and off campus. Even as recently as 2012, only 35 such programs existed. Many of the newer programs got their start with the help of $10,000 seed grants from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation, a Reno, Nevada-based nonprofit that exists to raise addiction awareness.
Addiction experts will say that collegiate recovery programs are not treatment. CRPs are designed to support students who have completed substance abuse treatment and are prepared to reside and socialize with like-minded students.
Successful collegiate recovery programs offer a space that students can call their own with dedicated clinical support that can work closely with the college to coordinate services and activities. CRPs also offer academic courses in recovery, retreats, leadership workshops, movie nights, health and wellness activities, recovery conferences and sober tailgating. The goal is to create a community and culture for students who are already committed to staying sober in college.
Components of sober living on a college campus:
- Academic Services – Students receive help and support through the transition process from a drug addiction treatment program back to an academic environment. Tutors provide assistance and support during the student’s college career.
- Recovery Program – A formal program designed to support sober entertainment, managing peer pressure, and handling social situations through workshops and groups.
- Crisis Management – Crisis management provides support and help for psychiatric or medical issues that the student may be dealing with. Access to medical professionals that have an understanding of addiction can be beneficial.
- Relapse Prevention – Living in a sober environment gives 24/7 support for maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
A good resource for sober living for college students is Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE). The Association of Recovery in Higher Education is the only one of its kind representing collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) and recovery communities (CRCs), in addition to the faculty, staff, and the students. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education provides the resources, education, and community connections needed to help support student’s sobriety throughout their college career. ARHE is a network of administrators, professionals, faculty, students, staff, parents and policymakers. The focus of Association of Recovery In Higher Education is to serve as national support for growing and supporting collegiate recovery programs. ARHE offers research, time-tested, and experience-based modeling for encouraging students in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction who seek to excel in higher learning. ARHE is the authority on modeling and tailoring CRP’s to best integrate them into the academic institution, and ultimately to best serve their students in recovery.
Below is a list of some northeastern universities which offer sober housing and understand its importance for college students in recovery:
- Fairfield University
- University of Vermont
- Brown University
- Monmouth University
- Penn State University
- Rutgers University
- Mitchell College
Collegiate Recovery Programs
Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP’s) strive to create a campus-based, “recovery-friendly” space and a supportive social community to enhance educational opportunities while supporting continued recovery and emotional growth. Experts’ calls for campus-based recovery services for students have been largely unheeded. The U.S. Dept. of Education notes “the education system’s role as part of the nation’s recovery and relapse prevention support system is still emerging’. Preventing relapse is especially critical as SUDs are linked with college attrition rates. Therefore, youths’ developmental stage, and the unique challenges of the college environment, both underline the necessity for a recovery support environment on campus. This includes a recovery supportive social environment that supports social connectedness, given the influence of peers on substance use. These factors fueled the rapid growth of programs offering sober living in universities from 4 in 2000 to 29 in 2012 with 5 to 7 developing annually. While CPRs vary in budget, scope, and breadth of services, most are peer-supported, 12-step based, and provide regular support groups, sober events, and seminars on substance abuse and recovery. The need for collegiate recovery programs is supported by many college and universities reporting that demand surpasses their capacity.
New Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP)
While treatment services on campus are typically limited, many colleges and universities offer a collegiate recovery program. The goal of a CRP is to focus recovery support services on students in higher education environments. Below is a list of the CRP’s that expect to kick-off in 2018:
- Case Western Reserve University
- SW University of Utah
- Jacksonville State University
- Louisiana State University
- Lorain County Community College
- Loyola Marymount University
- North Carolina A&T State University and Technical State University
- Northern State University
- Rutgers University
- Slippery Rock University
- Southern Methodist University
- University of Central Florida
- University of Connecticut
- University of Minnesota – Rochester
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of North Carolina – Greensboro
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- University of North Texas
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Southern Maine
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Texas Rio Grande
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- West Virginia University
For more information about sober living in universities, contact Westport House in Fairfield County CT.