CENTER CITY, Minn., Sept. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — As the nation looks for solutions to the complex addiction crisis underlying its staggering overdose epidemic, one idea gaining strength is to confront the culture of widespread substance use on university campuses with something called «collegiate recovery programs» (CRPs).

Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy (PRNewsFoto/Hazelden Betty Ford Institute fo)

CRPs—or Collegiate Recovery Communities (CRCs) as they’re known to some—provide support for young students in recovery from addiction, as well as a visible beacon of hope and health for other students who may need help now or at some point in the future for themselves, a friend or a family member.

«One challenge facing college students after they complete treatment or enter a school already in recovery is having access to a safe haven from the ‘Animal House’ culture of substance use on campus,» said Nick Motu, Vice President of the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. «Collegiate recovery programs offer recovering students a healthy, recovery-supportive social environment that enables them to thrive.»

The newest edition of the Institute’s Emerging Drug Trends report, produced in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Public Health, highlights the value of collegiate recovery programs, noting that they address several key aspects of what many consider to be the biggest public health crisis in America, such as:

  • Addiction most often takes root at a young age
  • College campuses traditionally have been – as researcher Alexandre Laudet describes it – «abstinence-hostile»
  • Relapse is common without ongoing community-based supports like CRPs
  • Education and employment are key long-term recovery protectors, and yet, in the absence of CRPs, some young people avoid college for fear it will jeopardize their recovery
  • Most Americans come of age with little exposure to or knowledge of recovery, partly because it’s not a visible aspect of the educational experience

CRP directors also note that young people in recovery are often high-performing leaders and influencers on campus. Indeed, the report cites research that indicates students involved with CRPs earn better grades and have higher graduation rates than the general student body, while experiencing an exceptionally low relapse rate.

«No longer is treatment a reason for a young person to stop pursuing their academic goals and dreams. Collegiate recovery programs give them an opportunity to gain traction in recovery, especially early on, even while returning to the stresses of academia and temptations of life on a college campus,» said William Moyers, a best-selling author, recovery advocate and vice president at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. «My own family has benefitted from the power of recovery on a college campus. It is a tremendous relief to any parent—me included—to know that getting a college degree and recovery go hand in hand for our children today.»

College and recovery don’t go hand in hand for all who need them to, though – not yet. While efforts to establish collegiate recovery programs have more than tripled since 2013 and gained more attention in light of the opioid crisis claiming tens of thousands of lives annually, only approximately 100 programs exist today. That represents a small fraction of the colleges in the country (there are 1,400 four-year institutions alone) and serves a small number of the estimated 250,000 students who have ever received substance use treatment, not to mention the many others who would stand to benefit. This opportunity will be among the topics discussed at an upcoming symposium Moyers will moderate with college administrators, researchers and advocates in Washington, D.C., called Substance Use On College Campuses: New Approaches to a Perennial Problem.

Advocates like Amy Boyd Austin, Board President for the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and Founding Director of the University of Vermont’s Catamount Recovery Program, say collegiate recovery programs should be on every campus.

«Collegiate recovery is an essential part of the higher education landscape. It’s integral to a continuum of care through its role in prevention, intervention and recovery support,» Boyd Austin said. «Students in collegiate recovery programs have demonstrated stellar student success through higher GPAs, retention rates and graduation rates. In the endeavor to shift college culture away from high-risk behaviors, highlighting efforts and success stories like students in recovery and other substance-free students is paramount to success.»

Dr. Joseph Lee, Medical Director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Youth Continuum, says: «Outdated cultural norms associated with the college experience are antithetical to the fiercely competitive realities of a global marketplace, and they also create contradictory pressures for college administrators when it comes to substance use on campuses. The result of all this is a terrible irony – that collegiate recovery programs receive only a fraction of the support of Greek systems and other similar organizations despite the crucial role they play in creating and sustaining a campus culture of health and wellness.»

«The data so far suggest collegiate recovery programs are cost-effective and tremendously beneficial,» added Dr. Lee, author of Recovering My Kid: Parenting Young Adults in Treatment and Beyond. «People in recovery are not only sober; they begin to align their lifestyles with the values they have always had within. As a result, recovering individuals start to become the people they were meant to be, the people that their loved ones always knew they were. Their relationships blossom, their dreams are realized and their hopes prosper. … When you engage with young college students in recovery, it’s impossible to not be awed by who they are and what they have to offer the world.»

«The hopes and dreams of parents are realized when they see their children not only overcome adversity, but flourish on their path to young adulthood,» he continued. «In recovery, out of a young person’s historical suffering come hope, connection and strength. Lessons of struggle inspire a grateful, humble and empathic perspective on life that many other young adults simply cannot grasp.»

The September 2017 report on collegiate recovery is the fifth edition of the new monthly Emerging Drug Trends report, designed to provide front-line treatment and research perspectives on America’s No. 1 public health problem, addiction. The latest report looks in greater detail at the following:

  • What is «recovery?»
  • How many college students are in recovery?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities of recovery on a college campus?
  • What can colleges do to help?
  • What are the core principles of collegiate recovery programs, and how flexible is the programming?
  • How do students benefit from being involved in a collegiate recovery program?
  • What’s the evidence to support establishing a collegiate recovery program?

The full report is available here.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy
Our mission is to provide a trusted national voice on all issues related to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery and to facilitate conversation among those in recovery, those still suffering and society at large. We are committed to smashing stigma, shaping public policy and educating people everywhere about the problems of addiction and the promise of recovery. The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation’s largest nonprofit treatment provider. Learn more at www.HBFinstitute.org and on Twitter @hbfinstitute.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation helps people reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It is the nation’s leading nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care for youth and adults. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully-accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children’s program, and is the nation’s leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery. Learn more at www.HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter @hazldnbettyford.

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SOURCE Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation