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College Students Staying Sober

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

February 11, 2019

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education works to provide resources and information, and to aid in the recovery process for college students suffering from substance abuse.

Each year, college students across the nation suffer from substance abuse disorders of all kinds. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found in a 2015 survey that drug abuse is high for all substances in college-aged adults. Further, while abuse of a few substances is decreasing, trends of abuse are on the rise for many college students. For example, as explained by NIDA, cocaine abuse among full-time college students raises alarming concern.

With such troubling trends among college students, now more than ever, it is imperative to have systems in place to help these people overcome abuse disorders. College is, for many, a time during which people change their lives for the better. To help those who have succumbed to the grip of substance abuse, an organization has been established. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education works to provide resources and information, and to aid in the recovery process for college students suffering from substance abuse.

Association Of Recovery In Higher Education

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) is an organization dedicated to the recovery efforts of College Recovery Programs (CRPs) and College Recovery Communities (CRCs). As explained on its website, the ARHE “provides the education, resources and community connection needed to help change the trajectory of recovering students’ lives.” The organization forms a network between students, professionals, administrators, faculty, parents, and policymakers to foster communication and resources for treatment. ARHE aims to be the backbone of collegiate recovery programs, providing necessary support.

What Does ARHE Do?

First and foremost, ARHE “offers time-tested, research and experience-based modeling for fostering and supporting those in recovery who seek to excel in higher education.” Essentially, it wishes to help students complete recovery in a safe environment with a connection to information and resources.

In addition, ARHE hopes to help students on the journey to recovery not only for the health benefits but also so the students have a higher chance of completing their education. Yet the organization does not wish to stop at helping just students in recovery.

Instead, it hopes to make CRPs available everywhere so students across the country may benefit in their time of need, and also to raise awareness. The ARHE vision statement best highlights this, stating its goal to “transform the world through the perpetuation and growth of Collegiate Recovery on campuses nationwide.”

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History of The Association Of Recovery In Higher Education

In the 1970s, a few universities already recognized the need for specialized treatment services for substance abuse among college students. Brown University and Rutgers University began the school-based recovery support services which would ultimately change and develop into full recovery communities (CRCs) in other universities. By the 1980s, more universities had adopted College Recovery Programs (CRPs), partly in response to increased substance abuse evident on college campuses.

These first CRPs offered select services: substance-free residential housing, self-help meetings, counseling, and staff support. Without an overarching consensus for treatment, each CRP differed from the next. Although, the ARHE admits that all of these CRPs had one common goal: “to improve outcomes for students who had developed dependencies on alcohol and other substances.” Research later conducted on these pioneer programs overwhelmingly shows that students who participated in these programs had a better recovery rate than those who did not.

For the next few years, between 1997 and 2004, even more universities adopted CRPs. Those universities saw further improvements among both college student recovery efforts and overall university academic performance. These outcomes were measured by university records and data from the survey connected to research for CRPs. Perhaps most important to these positive outcomes, though, were the social support systems. Academic, peer-to-peer, and 12-step recovery supports proved to be most effective in recovery efforts.

After this, CRPs saw an “explosion” in university systems across the United States. The strong foundation of the programs and the importance of support systems ensured continued success of CRPs. One college, Texas University Tech, even made its CRP model available for others to follow. ARHE believes at this point the Federal Government may have taken notice of the success of the programs, as it then began to highlight the need for extensive and continued treatment for substance abuse, especially in colleges and universities.

For the next decade, CRPs would be established in an increasing number of universities. One continued distinguishment for these programs is that they differ across the nation. That is because needs of campuses differ among campus environments and student populations, according to ARHE. Some of the ways these programs differ are:

  • Whether they are housed administratively
  • Whether they are headed by a staff member
  • Whether they are part of a student organization
  • Whether they have a physical space to gather

Today, recovery programs throughout the country have more than tripled in number, largely due to a Grant Initiative implemented by Transforming Youth Recovery. Some of the communities among this initiative are still planning, some are established in recovery efforts, and some programs are well underway, already working within their student communities.

One thing is certain of such an increase in CRPs. That is, as ARHE states, “the groundswell these many efforts represent is a testament to the broad support for recovery supports on campuses and the health of the movement going forward.”

Collegiate Recovery Program Members

The Collegiate Recovery Program has become so successful in student support efforts and has gained following from universities spanning the United States. Below is a list of these universities. The list is comprised first by region and then by state:

  • Pacific Region:
    • California: University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB); University of California at Riverside; Loyola Marymouth University
    • Oregon: University of Oregon; Southern Oregon University; Oregon State University
    • Washington: Gonzaga University
  • Mountain Region:
    • Colorado: University of Colorado at Boulder
    • Nevada: University of Nevada
    • Utah: CSW University of Utah
  • Midwest Region:
    • Indiana: Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis
    • Michigan: University of Michigan; Michigan State University
    • Minnesota: Augsburg College; St. Cloud State University; University of Minnesota—Rochester
    • Nebraska: University of Nebraska at Omaha
    • Ohio: Case Western Reserve University; Lorain County Community College; Ohio University; The Ohio State University
    • South Dakota: Northern State University
  • Northeast Region:
    • Connecticut: Fairfield University; University of Connecticut
    • Delaware: University of Delaware
    • Maine: University of Southern Maine
    • Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Boston
    • New Jersey: Monmouth University; Rutgers University; The College of New Jersey
    • Pennsylvania: Carnegie Mellon University; Pennsylvania State University; Slippery Rock University; University of Pittsburgh
    • Rhode Island: Brown University
    • Vermont: University of Vermont
  • Mid-Atlantic Region:
    • District of Columbia: George Washington University
    • North Carolina: East Carolina University; North Carolina A&T State University; University of North Carolina at Asheville; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; University of North Carolina at Greensboro; University of North Carolina at Wilmington
    • Virginia: University of Virginia; Virginia Commonwealth University; Washington and Lee UniversityWest Virginia: West Virginia University
  • Southeast Region:
    • Alabama: Auburn University; University of Alabama
    • Florida: Jackson State University; University of Central Florida; University of Florida
    • Georgia: Dalton State College; Emory University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Southern University; Kennesaw State University; The University of Georgia
    • Kentucky: University of Kentucky
    • Louisiana: Louisiana State University
    • Mississippi: Mississippi State University; University of Mississippi
    • Tennessee: Vanderbilt University
  • Southwest Region:
    • Texas: Baylor University; Southern Methodist University; Texas Tech University; University of Houston; The University of Texas at Austin; The University of Texas at Dallas; University of Texas Rio Grande; University of North Texas

Going Back To College In Recovery From Addiction

Substance abuse, in any form, can take a toll on a person’s life. But when a person has commitments such as family, work, and school, substance abuse can get in the way of upholding these responsibilities. Combining substance abuse recovery and all the expectations of college could be enough to push a person to the limit. That is why it is so important that recovering college students have a plan and a strong support system to ensure continued progress in treatment.

The first step is to establish a support system. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education makes this process an easy one. Students who become members of the program are instantly connected to:

  • Information from the latest research in the field of recovery
  • Access to an online member directory
  • Access to information for institutions
  • Networking opportunities

When in recovery, staying the sober path may be difficult, so having a large network of people who support and understand recovery troubles could be detrimental to success. This idea extends to the company a person keeps. If friends or family members trigger substance abuse, perhaps it is best to avoid these people, even if for a while.

On that note, it is also a good idea to avoid stressful situations in general, as they may trigger urges for substance use. This may prove one of the more difficult tasks in recovery. To help ease stress, avoid taxing situations. Find a select group of people on whom to call when experiencing downtimes or cravings.

Replace old habits with new ones; instead of seeking substances, find a new activity or exercise, teach yourself something new, or find a way to learn something that benefits you and builds confidence. This will release stress and tension while replacing the reward feeling a person misses when in recovery.

Another helpful way to stay on track is to find a local chapter of, for example, Alcoholics Anonymous, and attend meetings. While not everyone can open up in meetings, it may be helpful months or years into this journey to have a group of people who can relate to the trials of recovery.

Finally, abstinence is still key to a successful recovery. In college, this can be difficult to achieve with the ready availability of substances. But there are many activities on all campuses held in substance-free environments, and this could be a great opportunity to take advantage of them.

How To Start A Recovery Program At My College

College Recovery Programs have been around since the 1970s, and more universities are implementing the CRPs and forming CRCs all the time. Still, as ARHE states, CRPs have not yet become a “household term.” However, if you are attending a college that does not have a support program for recovery, do not despair. You could be the innovator for change at your institution by helping to spearhead a new program.

Though this may seem like a monumental task, communities in universities and colleges throughout the nation demonstrate the effectiveness of the programs. Helping to shape a program in your own school could aid you in your personal recovery, and may even make a difference in the recovery of others. Further, CRPs spread awareness for those who are involved with substance abuse, yet lack information—this allows them to become CRP allies.

Struggles and expectations tied to both substance abuse treatment and success in education can be overwhelming. CRPs can be extremely helpful by providing a supportive network, information, and a connection to resources.

To begin a CRP at your institution, there are many things to be considered. Namely, it is important to understand the needs of your institution’s student population. Here is a list, compiled by the ARHE, of things to consider before delving into a new CRP:

  • Institutional values—it may be helpful to reference your school’s vision or mission statement in considering this factor.
  • Campus culture—recognize it and understand it. Be sure that, when determining the program, the values and mission align with the needs of this culture.
  • Institutional groups as allies—find groups or committees already in place who could aid you in this process or who would like to be part of this new initiative, and call on them. CRPs are all about networking with others, so this factor is incredibly relevant.
  • Your CRP foundational values—even though growth and change can contribute to overall success, it will be helpful to have founding values to uphold.
  • Establish CRP values, mission, and vision statements—This may be easier after getting help from other groups on campus who are committed to becoming members.
  • Decide what will be the recovery efforts of the CRP—for instance, will it adhere to recovery efforts solely for substance abuse, or take on a larger scope, including mental health disorders and more?
  • Consider treatment methods—there are many from which to choose. Twelve-step recovery programs, counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy are just a few.
  • Determine how the CRP will handle relapses from members—This will be important as it will set the tone for your program. Will there be warnings and second chances, or will members be removed from the program if relapses occur?
  • Determine what kind of financial and spatial support the CRP will have—can you get a grant to fund the CRP, can you get your institution to commit a time and space for the program? This may be one of the more time-consuming factors, but it is essential to the success of the program.
  • Then, determine the dynamics of the CRP—will the program have a residential-based model, treatment-based, counseling-based, or simply be a student-led organization? Carefully consider the needs of the student population for this decision.

Finding Allies For Recovery

College can be an enlightening experience for many students. Substance abuse can darken that experience, or even keep a person from completing his or her degree. Do not let substance abuse get the best of you or your education. To learn more about treatment, get in touch with resources, or speak to a professional about substance abuse issues, contact us today at

Association Of Recovery In Higher Education - Who We Are

National Institute On Drug Abuse - Drug And Alcohol Use In College-Age Adults in 2015

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