In its 2002 report on college drinking, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes U.S. college campuses as supporting a culture of drinking. Staying clean and sober in an environment where drinking and, to a lesser extent, other drug use is an accepted behavior presents real challenges to students who are in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction. The collegiate recovery school movement began with the development of school-based recovery support services at Brown University in 1977 and Rutgers University in 1983. Programs at Texas Tech University’s Center for the Study of Addictions (1986) and Augsburg College’s StepUP Program (1997) further advanced campus recovery services.
Other campuses have taken steps to meet the needs of students in recovery. Currently 15 campuses are members of the Association of Recovery Schools. A number of campuses provide a range of services to support students in recovery, including providing alcohol-free residence halls or substance-free floors in selected residences halls and making space available on campus for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, as well as providing counseling services. Additionally, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has called for expansion of community-based recovery support programs, including recovery schools.
What Science Tells Us
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health estimate as many as 31 percent of college students meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse. Another 6 percent were found to be alcohol dependent, displaying signs of abuse in addition to symptoms like tolerance-needing more of a substance to achieve the same effect-or withdrawal. Data also show that even students who do not reach this threshold can still have a serious problem with their drinking. These students most likely represent a substantial proportion of the estimated 40 percent of college students who engage in heavy drinking at least once every two weeks (defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in one sitting).
According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11 percent of all adults with some college experience were classified with alcohol or other drug dependence or abuse in 2002, and 1.2 million of those people were between the ages of 18 and 25. There is no research information on the number of students who are currently in recovery or participating in campus-based recovery services nor on the number of campuses that provide such services.
The US Department of Education
Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention