Scholarly Rationale

The rationale and the content for CRC's is summarized so well by Laudet et al. (2014) that the extended passage is worth quoting in its entirety:

In recovery and in college: double jeopardy rates of substance use disorders (SUD) triple from 7% in adolescence to 20% in early adulthood (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011), making this developmental stage critical to young people’s future. In spite of effective interventions (Becker & Curry, 2008; Chung et al., 2003; Dennis et al., 2004; Tanner-Smith, Wilson, & Lipsey, 2013; Winters, Stinchfield, Lee, & Latimer, 2008), relapse rates are typically high (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008).

Post-treatment continuing support is effective at sustaining recovery (Dennis & Scott, 2007; Godley et al., 2010; McKay et al., 2009; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Communications, 2009). The need for recovery support is especially high for SUD-affected college students: Attending college and transitioning into adulthood can both be demanding, offering new freedoms but also less structure and supervision.

For youths in SUD recovery, these challenging transitions are compounded by the need to remain sober in an “abstinence-hostile environment’ (Cleveland, Harris, & Wiebe, 2010): The high rates of substance use on campuses (Hingson, Zha, & Weitzman, 2009; Wechsler & Nelson, 2008) make college attendance a severe threat to sobriety that must often be faced without one’s established support network (Belletal, 2009; Woodford, 2001). Combined, these factors can lead to isolation when “fitting in’ is critical, and/or to yielding to peer pressure to use alcohol or drugs, both enhancing relapse risks (Harris, Baker, Kimball, & Shumway, 2008; Woodford, 2001).

Experts’ calls for campus-based services for recovering students (Dickard, Downs, & Cavanaugh, 2011; Doyle, 1999) have thus far been largely unheeded (Bell et al., 2009; Botzet, Winters, & Fahnhorst, 2007; Cleveland, Harris, Baker, Herbert, & Dean, 2007). The U.S. Department of Education noted that “the education system’s role as part of the nation’s recovery and relapse prevention support system is still emerging’ (p. 10 (Dickard et al., 2011). Preventing students relapse is especially critical as SUDs are associated with college attrition (Hunt, Eisenberg, & Kilbourne, 2010). Thus, youths’ developmental stage, and the unique challenges of college, both underline the need for a recovery support infrastructure on campus (Botzet et al., 2007; Misch, 2009). This includes the need for a recovery supportive social environment that fosters social connectedness, given the influence of peers on youths’ substance use (Cimini et al., 2009; Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Office of Communications, 2009; White, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (2014) approach to SUD services (Clark, 2008). These factors fueled a rapid growth of CRPs, from 4 in 2000 to 29 in 2012 (Laudet et al., 2013) with 5 to 7 starting annually (Kimball, 2014). While CPRs vary in orientation, budget, and in the breadth of services (Laudet, Harris, Kimball, Winters, & Moberg, 2014; Laudet et al., 2013), most are peer-driven, are 12-step based, and provide onsite support groups, sober events, and seminars on SUD and recovery. The need for CRPs is bolstered by many sites’ reporting that demand surpasses capacity. (Laudet et al., 2014, p.2)

Wiebe, Cleveland & Harris (@010) describe the students dilemma another way in The Need for College Recovery Services, the 1st chapter of Substance Abuse Recovery in College: Community Supported Abstinence (Cleveland et al., 2007):

For too many college students, college represents the last bastion of adolescent irresponsibility. On most college campuses, drugs and alcohol are widely available, and students are loudly exhorted by peers and other social and cultural influences to drink and use drugs, with excessive substance use often seen as a rite of passage (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [CASA], 2007). This environment may be appealing to the minds of some college students. However, for young adults in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, it is difficult to imagine, let alone find, a setting more hostile to maintaining abstinence than a college campus (Cleveland, Harris, Baker, Herbert, & Dean, 2007).

America’s campuses are in the midst of a substance use epidemic that shows no sign of abating. A nationally representative survey by CASA revealed that while the proportion of college students who drank decreased from 70 to 68% between 1993 and 2005 (a statistically insignificant decline) and the number who binge drank at least once a week remained at 40%, rates of frequent drinking, frequent binge drinking, and drinking to get drunk among college students increased during the same period by 25, 16, and 21%, respectively (CASA, 2007; see also Dowdall & Wechsler, 2002). These drinking behaviors track the increasing cultural importance of drinking to the college experience (Schulenberg & Maggs, 2002). Together, the behavioral prevalence and cultural centrality of drinking have created a culture that affects everyone exposed to it (Presley, Meilman, & Leichliter, 2002). Students who come to college drinking, drink more. And many non-drinkers or moderate drinkers are induced to take up heavy drinking (Wechsler & Weuthrich, 2002).

These behaviors are dangerous for everyone. Among college students aged 18-24, alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths increased from nearly 1,600 to more than 1,700 (increase of 6% per college population) between 1998 and 2001. During the same period, the proportion of students who reported driving under the influence of alcohol rose from 26.5%, or 2.3 million, to 31.4%, or 2.8 million (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005).

This atmosphere of collegiate drinking reflects trends among American youth generally. For example, the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days, 45% drank some amount of alcohol, 26% engaged in binge drinking, 11% drove after drinking alcohol, and 29% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (Eaton et al., 2008). And the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that among Americans aged 12-17, 5.8% had begun to use illicit drugs and 10.7% had begun to use alcohol during 2007 (SAMHSA, 2008).

Of course, college students do more than just drink. Illicit drug use among students increased even more than serious drinking during the period covered by the CASA survey. Daily marijuana use more than doubled, illegal hard drug use went up 52%, and abuse of prescription drugs increased by 93% for stimulants such as Ritalin, 225% for sedatives such as Nembutal, 343% for synthetic opiates such as OxyContin, and 450% for tranquilizers such as Xanex (CASA, 2007). Altogether, each month, almost half (49.4%) of all full-time college students aged 18-22 either binge drink, abuse prescription or illegal drugs, or both, and about 22.9% of those students meet diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence, almost triple the rate of the general population (8.5%) (Wiebe, Cleveland, Harris, 2010, pps. 2-3).

Cleveland, H. Harrington, Kitty S. Harris, Amanda K. Baker, Richard Herbert, and Lukas R. Dean. œCharacteristics of a Collegiate Recovery Community: Maintaining Recovery in an Abstinence-Hostile Environment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 33, no. 1 (July 2007): 13-23.

Laudet, Alexandre, Kitty Harris, Thomas Kimball, Ken C. Winters, and D. Paul Moberg. œCollegiate Recovery Communities Programs: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know? Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions 14, no. 1 (January 2014): 84-100.