It’s no secret that drug addiction arises from the need to combat life stress with readily available and illicit substances that alter perception. This is why any headline could read: College Campuses in America Ground Zero for Addiction. College is where many individuals discover their first tryst with independent living, and their first opportunities to combat stress with drugs and alcohol.

According to the Clinton Foundation, between the years 1993 and 2005, college student use of uncontrolled prescription drugs increased nearly 350%. These drugs include many that have become problems in the general public like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet. Many college students start taking these substances innocently, but are quickly turned-on to their powerful effects. Combined with the typical social atmosphere experience by these students in campus living, an addiction is easily formed.


Most college-aged drug addictions begin with peer pressure. College life presents obstacles and demands that many students have never experienced, and are ill-equipped to deal with. Dorm life and large matriculating populations increase the availability of controlled substances for all residents in a college sphere.

College students are expected to constantly use reasoning to solve problems and work through obstacles. This reasoning, especially in a private context, can lead students with heavy stress loads to choose the “path of least resistance” when finding ways to cope with stress. Drugs and other addictive substances and behaviors are attractive alternatives. This is an unfortunate situation considering most large college campuses are miniature replicas of modern society, and any substance of choice is readily available.

On top of turning to chemical solutions for problems like stress, students will likely participate in social events that create a diversion from class loads and institutional requirements. In short, this means a good deal of partying. Modern college parties have far outgrown social gatherings and group events. Depending on campus rules, college parties are more likely free-for-alls that permit and encourage experimentation and sharing of controlled substances amongst student cliques. It is very easy to find, use, and form a lifestyle of addiction with participation in college parties.

The trouble with starting the abuse of controlled substances in college is the reality that many students temporarily experience a boost in their performance. With a few good grades after a term of experimentation, it is easy to justify the continued used of a preferred drug. Unfortunately, this continued abuse does not translate without problems once a college student steps into the real world. The need to continue the “good feelings” and “quick fixes” found in the collegiate party life will overtake that person’s ability to perform well in a professional atmosphere. Anxiety returns, compounded with guilt, shame, and depression. Where does the person turn? They will likey turn to the only thing that helped in the past—drugs, so begins a lifestyle of addiction.

The rise in college-aged people becoming addicted to substances highlights the importance of creativity in recovery. Not only is a new generation of addicts hooked on more powerful and available substances, but they are mentally swayed to accept addiction as an acceptable mode of life management. Traditional therapeutic methods for treating addiction won’t necessarily work on a new class of addicts. Though the physiological elements remain constant, approaching addicts that are highly educated and have unique experiences is vastly different. Counselors and recovery specialists must constantly evolve to match the demands of working with addicts who have highly-tuned reasoning abilities. These abilities are maligned, and used daily by addicts to justify a dependence on substances that fuel a downward spiral in life.

Creative methods for addressing the needs of people who form drug addictions in college are now being integrated with programs in many clinics, hospitals, outreach centers, and spiritually-centered recovery services.

* The ARHE (Association of Recovery in Higher Education) supports intervention with the help of parents and student peers in helping addicted students recover, while maintaining good standing with the colleges they are attending. Recovery is initiated like any other required class.

* Subsidized and sponsored CRPs (College Recovery Programs) are now a regular part of campus life in most major universities. They are offered through college health services, or student life organizations.

* Sober-living communities are now established alternatives to traditional college housing arrangements. Students in recovery can opt to dwell with fellow recovering addicts, while having round-the-clock access to living space counselors who can help them avoid pitfalls for addiction in college life.

When it comes down to fundamentals, the best and the brightest among society also need help when confronting the choice to recover from addiction. Recovery science and practice is evolving to meet the needs of a new class of addict that requires a unique style of connection to realize lifetime success in living clean.