The collegiate recovery movement is alive and well

ryanhowellIn an open letter to NIDA, a group that enjoys great success with an abstinence based approach is concerned that their recovery path is being discounted and ignored in the attempt to build an evidence-base. (emphasis mine)

The collegiate recovery movement is alive and well across the nation. We are on the cusp of a movement experiencing exponential growth in the last five years. Adding to the fifty established programs in existence, at least fifty more are emerging in various stages of development. We invite you to review the research evidence supporting the efficacy of these programs. Data suggests that CRPs effectively promote recovery, prevent relapse, and improve educational outcomes for the individuals participating in these programs (Cleveland, Harris, Baker, Herbert, & Dean, 2007). Researchers have indicated that peer-to-peer recovery support, together with the infrastructure of a university program, is an essential component to the continuum of care. Institutions are finding that providing supports is necessary for our student populations to achieve success in an otherwise abstinence hostile environment.

Since many of our communities require abstinence as a criterion for membership or participation, we maintain that the science of abstinence-based approaches to recovery is meaningful and should not be discounted within National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) priorities.

photo credit: Jeff Tabaco
photo credit: Jeff Tabaco

All of this begs the question of how far we might go with a 2 class system with doctors, lawyers, pilots, nurses and college students get an approach organized around the expectation that they can achieve and maintain abstinent recovery, while everyone else gets an approach that assumes they are not capable of this.

All these groups bring high levels of personal recovery capital. Possibly more importantly, I’d point to 3 things:

  • they bring relatively well-defined identities that provide considerable purpose and meaning;
  • these identities (and their purpose and meaning) and may be threatened by their addiction; and
  • there are tribes within the recovering community based on these identities.

Why not work on ways to identify, construct and enhance these kinds of factors for everyone else.

One thought on “The collegiate recovery movement is alive and well

  1. Agree. While it’s critical to be open to any and all approaches to recovery and TX, I too note an abstinence hostlity out there. Despite the fact that about a third of Americans abstain this goal is somehow described as “unrealistic”.

    It seems time for people to make their voices known so the evidence speaks for itself. Without the deep pockets of pharma lobbyists only real people will make a difference. It’s not an either/or but should be all inclusive.

    Despite the fact that research going back to Project Match at TRI/PENN and the 16 yr follow up VA study and recent studies like the one a few months ago from Harvard of Young Opiate Clients continue to substantiate evidence behind such approaches there is still a vocal group claiming that it’s not evidence based. Of course it doesn’t work for everyone nor is everyone ready or willling to go that route so all options should be on the table and recognized and supported.

    While I embrace many harm reduction principles and do not find them incongruenrt with abstinence or 12 step based support, I can’t help but sometimnes think that the war on drugs has turned into a war on recovering people if they aren’t being medicated and treated with pschodynamic therapy with a shrink on Park Ave.

    Thank you collegiate recovery for sending this message.


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