Students shouldn’t have to sacrifice school for recovery, or recovery for school

Source: Detroit Free Press
Source: Detroit Free Press

This story of a recent University of Michigan student who died while combining Adderall and alcohol touches upon a recent theme in this blog.

Six weeks ago, her son collapsed after snorting ground-up Adderall and chasing it with enough alcohol to stop his heart.

Adderall, if you don’t know, is a prescription drug used to combat attention deficit disorder. Yet among college students, it’s prized for so much more, notably its euphoric high, speed-like jolt and, most deviously, its ability to trick the body during alcohol consumption, so that you can binge, and then binge some more.

. . .

He just wanted to drink on the weekend, ease back on the throttle a bit as he adjusted to his new work life, to adult life — he’d taken a job in sales in Chicago. The problem was the method, one he’d learned on campus, as so many thousands do.

Yes, Julie Buckner knows her son made a mistake. She also admits that she worried when her son joined a fraternity. As a college graduate, she remembers alcohol on campus — she went to U-M.

Then she attended Saturday’s U-M game against Appalachian State. What she saw scared her.

“It’s on a different level now,” she said of the drinking. “What my son did isn’t out of the norm of what’s going on in campuses. And it’s gotta stop.”

This story comes on the heels of a recent uproar about Arizona State University banning drinking games and beer bongs at tailgate parties before football games.

This ASU policy was recently discussed on sports radio with hours of ranting about other schools that have attempted to impose restrictions and that these restrictions quash the fun of tailgating and destroy tradition.

To me, these stories offer an example of cultures of addiction (and various tribes within them) being alive and well on college campuses. (One could argue whether this is really a culture of addiction, because most of the participants are not addicted. However, for the our purposes here, Bill White defined a culture of addiction as “an informal social network in which group norms promote excessive drug use.”)

931213_466395796774090_1850611531_nIn a recent discussion, I observed that some areas might be discussed as “recovery deserts” in they same way we talk about some regions as being “food deserts“. As someone who got sober on a Big 10 college campus, I can tell you that it was a recovery desert. Recovery may have existed in the campus community but, if it did, it was invisible and marginalized by the campus norms around drinking and its status as a celebrated drug on campuses.

This leads me back to the matter of recovery spaces, which leads me to the University of Michigan Collegiate Recovery Program. We’re not talking about creating a bubble for recovering students or judging everyone else on campus. In this vast university, there’s a little office that’s the place to go to learn about recovery, get some help, hang out, make sober plans with other sober people, learn to stay sober in a recovery-hostile environment and support each other. 

This video says more than I can say about its importance. (And, it’s NOT phony. I know these people. They had serious problems. They are all doing REALLY well and pursuing their dreams.)

I don’t know whether Josh Levine was an alcoholic. His brother says he wasn’t and I have no reason to question that. But, if he was, and tried to quit, wouldn’t a visible recovery space like this be a very good thing?

U of M’s Collegiate Recovery Program is in its infancy. I hope it continues to grow and thrive. I wish something like it existed when I got sober. And, I wonder how many lost friends might have attempted recovery or been more successful with their recovery is something like this existed back then.

Related posts here.