College students who complete a drug and alcohol rehab program, or have entered recovery, are anxious about returning to college life which is surrounded by relapse triggers, as well as many people who are entering college for the first time who have had a drug and alcohol problem. Many times students may postpone school after drug rehab to avoid these triggers. Recently, there has been a surge of recognition regarding the importance of college students returning to school once addiction treatment is completed. Many colleges are now offering sober living quarters located on and off campuses to support and assist students with remaining sober and staying on track with their career choices.
College Life and Substance Abuse
When a student goes to college he or she rarely thinks about the possibility of developing an alcohol or drug addiction. College campuses are saturated with events such as weekend parties, sporting events, clubs and night life that are surrounded by alcohol and drugs. It would seem to be the perfect environment to foster addiction. Attempting to balance a social life with school can produce high levels of anxiety, depression or stress and he or she may seek alcohol and drugs to relax, have temporary relief and/or just to have fun.
When a student becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs he or she will have drastic changes in personality, mood and his/her approach to responsibilities. Parents will often feel that something is not right when they speak to their child.
Some warning signs of students with addiction problems while in college are:
- Missed classes.
- Failing grades.
- Drastically changing friends.
- Isolating from family. Family is unable to get in contact with them.
- Appearing tired all the time.
- Changes in weight.
- Mood swings. For example, changing from irritable to loving and warm.
- Asking for money regularly from parents.
Substance abuse has a negative impact on the student, both physically and psychologically, which makes it extremely difficult to complete school requirements.
Addiction at College
The most common pattern of substance abuse during college is binge using substances. College students will use substances in large quantities in a short period of time. Although binging is extremely dangerous, many students participate in this behavior associating alcohol and drugs with relaxation and fun.
Substance abuse may become the default pattern for students who experience high levels of stress, anxiety and depression and can lead to the excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs to decrease these feelings. Another negative coping skill that may develop is an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. College Drinking Prevention reports that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18-24 die from alcohol related unintentional injuries including car crashes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that 51% of individuals that are 18-20 years old who consume alcohol are binge drinkers.
Common drugs of abuse on college campuses:
College students that are sent to a drug and alcohol rehab face the difficult decision about either returning to a potentially dangerous environment or taking time off from school. Early in recovery it is important for young people to find support while continuing with school goals. Idle time can be a relapse trigger for most addicts in recovery.
A New Option: Sober Housing at College
Some colleges now offer sober living for those students who have completed alcohol and drug treatment or are in recovery. Recovering students will feel safer returning to school knowing that they will be living in a safe environment with like minded recovering individuals. Parental anxiety may also decrease knowing that this is an option as well. Sober living environments for college students are set up to support and help the student maintain sobriety throughout their college years.
Components of sober housing include:
- Academic Services – Students will receive help and support through the transition process from a drug treatment program back to school. Academic tutors will provide help and support throughout the student’s college career.
- Recovery Program – Offers continued support for finding sober entertainment, dealing with peer pressure, and how to handle social situations through workshops and group.
- Crisis Management – This offers help and support for mental health issues or medical issues that arise with the student. Having someone that can refer to medical professionals that have an understanding of addiction is helpful.
- Relapse Prevention – Living in a sober environment gives 24/7 support for maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Below is a list of universities which have options of sober housing and understand the importance of this need for college students in recovery:
- Augsburg College - Step Up Program
- Case Western Reserve University, Prevention and Recovery
- Collegiate Recovery Center, Kennesaw State
- Texas Tech University
- The College of St. Scholastica
- Jiang-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University
- Grand Valley State University
- Loyola College Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services
- Northern State University
- Rutgers University: New Brunswick Campus
- Tulsa Community College
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Vermont
- University of Virginia, Hoos in Recovery Program
- William Paterson University
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