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)