/By Alexandre Laudet PhD
June 4th, 2014/
With addiction best conceptualized as chronic for many, recovery support services are increasingly adopting a continuum of care approach. Acute episodes of intensive treatment may help initiate recovery but relapse too often follows lest ongoing support is available. For millions worldwide, 12-step fellowships provide that support with meetings available everywhere, around the clock in large cities, free of charge, without the need to wait for the next available appointment. Others turn to faith, counseling, and to the growing menu of community-based recovery support services. With education and employment consistently mentioned as top priorities among people in recovery, college attendance is a goal for many. However, substance use remains highly prevalent on college campuses, which may lead young people in recovery to either defer or postpone college, or increase the risk of relapse if they do attend: Peer pressure, the need to fit in and the ubiquitous temptations to drink or use drugs are just so many added relapse risks at a transitional life stage already characterized with new freedoms and responsibilities and therefore, stress.
A handful of colleges and universities started addressing students’ recovery support needs some 30 years ago, providing sober dorms and recovery support meetings on campus. As substance use on college campuses became increasingly recognized as a public health issue, experts and federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education have called for campus-based services for recovering students. This fueled a growing interest in Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs), a recovery-support model designed to create a campus-based “recovery friendly” space and supportive social community to enhance educational opportunities while supporting continued students’ recovery and emotional growth. The number of CRPs nationwide has grown 10 fold in the past 15 years, from 4 in 2000 to an estimated 40 today, and others in development. Yet the model has not been systematically examined and the lack of data is often cited by academic institutions as an obstacle to gaining internal support to start a CRP. To fill that evidence gap, CRPs are now the focus of a NIDA-funded exploratory study co-lead by Kitty Harris of Texas Tech University and myself.
The study is surveying both the individual sites and the student membership nationwide. In a recent article published in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, my colleagues and I discussed the need for recovery support on college campuses, the breadth of services needed, and preliminary site-level outcomes from CRP published reports. CRPs have thus far started organically, either by students in recovery and/or university staff; differences in budget and program development stage result in broadly different range of supports available. While newer programs may provide little more than fellowship and a meeting room, the longer established and best funded CRPs, such as Texas Tech’s Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery, include peer-tutoring, academic advising and scholarships based on both academics and commitment to recovery. CRP participation is typically free of charge; most programs operate with a very small core staff as the model relies on peer-driven support, typically emphasizing 12-step principles though weekly recovery celebration meetings that embrace all students in recovery regardless of their 12-step affiliation status. Descriptive findings about the breadth of CRPs from 29 sites were presented at the 2013 annual conference of the College of problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD). In the aggregate, annual relapse rates range from 0 to 25% (mean = 8%) and academic achievement (GPA and graduation) surpass the host institution’s overall outcomes. Findings from the student arm of the study will be presented at the 2014 CPDD meeting and at the 5th Annual Collegiate Recovery Conference at Ausgsburg College in June.
Alexandre Laudet, PhD is Director of the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., in New York City.