Alcohol use, drug use, and addictive behaviors are not a new phenomenon, by far. Young adults who attend colleges and universities are often quite familiar with drinking culture, and many individuals are able to recall one or more friends who used substances during young adulthood. While substance use is not new, many colleges and universities are launching a new approach to substance use issues: Collegiate Recovery Programs.

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education defines Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs) and Collegiate Recovery Communities (CRCs) as programs designed for students who seek recovery from addiction and wellness from substance use. These programs are supported and sanctioned by the individual institutions that house them. The goal of these programs is to offer support and a safe place to students in recovery in order to help prevent substance use– all while offering opportunities to interact socially, enjoy the college years, and obtain a desired degree while remaining abstinent from addictive substances.

“I think the language around addiction has changed. I don’t think it’s where it’s supposed to be or needs to be yet. When it comes to addiction, I think we’ve really focused our energy and our resources on the worst day and not the first day, on how addiction ends rather than why it’s beginning.” –Chris Herren, Heroes in Recovery

Collegiate Recovery Programs offer a number of activities and ways for students to connect. Some events and activities may include wellness and health activities, conferences, study groups, retreats, sober social events, workshops, and meetings. Often, meetings are planned and led by students, offering valuable leadership opportunities and ways for students to meet like-minded peers. Most programs do adhere to some type of 12-step recovery format, but may vary in their approaches depending on the needs and personalities of the students.

A recent study that was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment offered greater insight into students who participate in these programs. The average age was of survey participants 26, with individuals ranging from ages 17-58. Most surveyed students were full-time students. The majority of students who participated in this study were Caucasian males, which may be noteworthy for those who would like to continue this research and further develop information about diverse populations who may also benefit from Collegiate Recovery Programs.

This study found a few interesting statistics, including:

  • Many students had encountered problems with multiple substances or behavior issues at one time.
  • Most students in recovery opted to live off-campus for various reasons, including a desire to stay away from temptations to use substances.
  • Almost 75% of students had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
  • Forty-eight percent of surveyed individuals had been diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorder.
  • Drug use and alcohol use were among the most widely reported relapse concerns. Issues like eating disorders were less reported among this survey group.

College students who seek to live a healthier lifestyle often face unique challenges when beginning college. Entering college and eventually seeking permanent employment after graduation lead to high stress levels. These transitions may increase a desire to use unhealthy coping mechanisms. Furthermore, many young students are experiencing new freedoms with less supervision and structure. There may be pressure to find friends and to fit in immediately. Students often feel a great deal of peer pressure to engage in drinking or substance use activities.

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) offers hope. Their organization has found that students who are part of active Collegiate Recovery Programs have significantly less danger of relapses than those who do not. The ARHE found that, nationwide, only 5% of students who remain active in collegiate recovery efforts will experience relapse. In other words, 95% of students who take an active part in leading or participating in a Collegiate Recovery Community go on to maintain their recovery while attending college or university.


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Association of Recovery in Higher Education. Recovery Resources. Retrieved from:
Laudet, Alexandre B. et al. Results from the first nationwide survey of students in collegiate recovery programs. Drug & Alcohol Dependence ,Volume 146, e170
Laudet, Alexandre B. et al. Characteristics of Students Participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs: A National Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 51, 38 – 46