Aftercare Support for College Students Struggling with Addiction

Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

AftercareCollegeSupportGroupsThe goals for a college career typically involve positive hopes for the future, including the accomplishment of an academic degree, long-lasting friendships, and memories that will endure a lifetime.

Nobody enters their college years with the expectation of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, but sadly, the reality of substance abuse among college-aged students is a growing public health concern.

Many Students Develop Addictions While Away at School

While many students may dismiss the use of drugs and alcohol during their collegiate years as a casual issue or ritualistic social experience, many students can develop full-blown addictions due to their use of substances while in college.

According to a nationally representative survey completed by CASAColumbia, 68% of students regularly drank alcohol and 40% of students engaged in binge drinking [1].

Other findings from this survey included the following:

  • Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students who abused prescription drugs increased by 93% for stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, 450% for tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium, and 343% for opioids like Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin [1].
  • Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students who used marijuana daily more than doubled, with the proportion of students who used cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs rising by 52% [1].

Many students may not realize that they actually meet the criteria for drug addiction or abuse. In fact, almost a quarter of college students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence but may be reluctant to seeking help or treatment due to the social stigma attached to substance abuse [1].

This information is startling for the college community, as many students may be attempting to complete their college career with a debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Options College Students Have For Support and Treatment

To begin, it is important to understand that addiction treatment occurs on multiple levels, according to the severity of the addiction and the symptoms that may be present. For students that are suffering with severe mental, physical, and psychological symptoms as a result of their addiction to drugs or alcohol, more intense forms of professional treatment are often required to adequately intervene, including hospitalization or residential care.

It is often necessary for an individual to safely wean from a drug before other forms of psychological support can begin, and this should only occur under appropriate medical supervision. If you are concerned that a college student in your life is suffering with acute consequences of addiction, it is crucial that steps are taken to intervene and mediate help.

Support Groups on Campus

Other college students may find that they need regularly support and care to stay accountable and to maintain sobriety from a previous addiction. While the means for treatment may seem to be minimal for students with limited finances, it is helpful to know that there are a myriad of resources that are in fact accessible to the college student.

For example, students looking for support for substance addiction may find help with the following resources:

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA): This 12-step program offers free support group meetings across the nation at various locations. Offering recovery support from the effects of addiction, the NA programs provides help from peers and through a network for addicts who wish to maintain a drug-free lifestyle [2].
  • College Campus Wellness Center: Many Universities offer counseling for college students for a minimal expense. This can allow for a continuation of therapeutic healing for the individual suffering with drug addiction.
  • Sponsorship: Organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous support Sponsorship, which is the connection with a person who can provide accountability and support. Sponsors can be a understanding and sympathetic friend to a person struggling with addiction within a group setting.
  • Outpatient Programs: Some students may find it helpful to continue their treatment protocol and program through outpatient support. Outpatient programs allow for greater flexibility with therapy and treatment appointments, permitting a student to maintain a school and work schedule if feasible.

Substance abuse and addiction on college campuses is a reality that many students will face during their collegiate careers. The most important thing to realize and understand is that these challenges do not need to be faced alone, in isolation, or in fear. Seeking help as early as possible will only prevent countless problems from developing over time.

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

[1]: CASAColumbia, “Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at America’s Colleges and Universities”, 2007. Retrieved September 8 2014.
[2]: Narcotics Anonymous World Services,

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.