Skip to content

Empowering Students: Collegiate Recovery Communities and You!

Empowering Students: Collegiate Recovery Communities and You!

Mental Health Campus Safety

By: Karrie Gilroy

College is often an opportunity for students to grow, experiment, and learn from their experiences. However, for students diagnosed with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), there may be additional challenges, such as a lack of dedicated space for building supportive and sustainable relationships with peers and staff, along with feelings of stigma associated with their recovery journey.

Studies have shown that college students drink alcohol at a higher rate than others in their age group (Facts on College Student Drinking). On a national level, drug overdose is a public health emergency. To put it in perspective, since 1999, preventable overdose death has risen by 781% (Drug overdoses - data details, 2023). In 2021, over 98,000 individuals lost their lives to drug overdose (Drug overdoses - data details, 2023). The data is out and the results are overwhelming, this is a national pandemic that is impacting our communities, and we are losing our loved ones at an accelerating pace. However, there are resources and ways we can bridge the gap for our students, and each other.

Recovery from a SUD is the process of abstaining from all mind-altering substances along with adopting a healthy lifestyle (Hazelden Betty Ford, nd). Recovery is not seen as the final destination, it is a life-long personal commitment with a strong connection to the recovery community. As Student Affairs professionals, we are in a unique space to identify the gaps, raise awareness on this pressing topic, and create inclusive spaces so our students know they are an integral part of our success as an institution. One way we can support students in recovery is by learning more about substance use and the resources available, such as Narcotics/Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, on-campus counseling, and recovery communities. Research shows that students in recovery from a SUD who have access to a recovery community graduate at a much higher rate than their peers (Hazelden Betty Ford, nd).

Recovery communities have served students on college campuses since 1977 (Pennelle, 2019). These communities offer sober living residences, 12-step meetings, and sober activities, among other amenities tailored to students in recovery. For many students in recovery, isolation is a large part of continued use. Access to a consistent peer support model can positively impact student success and long-term recovery (What is a peer?). Collegiate Recovery Communities provide a sustainable space for students to build relationships and join in fellowship with campus and community partners (Starting a collegiate recovery program, 2022).

There are many non-profit and for profit organizations that offer support to those in recovery. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) supports faculty, staff, and students in recovery. They do this through providing a resource hub of information on Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP), including a Collegiate Recovery ‘Best Practices Guide, CRP Directory, along with recovery meetings. With help from non-profit organizations like the Association for Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE), we can build sustainable spaces that encourage healing.

Research shows the rates of preventable drug overdose are increasing at a staggering rate, however there is hope for those affected by Substance Abuse. Collegiate Recovery Communities provide a much needed space for our students to succeed. Recovery and higher education have co-existed for over 30 years and will continue to expand as the need grows. As a campus community, we can start today by educating ourselves on what resources are available so we can help bridge the gap between recovery and academic success.

Seeing our students succeed because they had someone fighting for them to have space is a significance that cannot be quantified, as it is life-changing. Recovery is real and coming to campuses everywhere. Now is the time for us to take action and explore ways to show up – and show out – for our students in recovery.


  • Drug overdoses - data details. Injury Facts. (2023, March 13).
  • Facts on college student drinking - substance abuse and mental health ... (n.d.).
  • Hazelden Betty Ford (no date) Collegiate Recovery Programs Gaining Strength. Available at:,4%20percent%20to%208%20percent. (Accessed: 06 September 2023).
  • Pennelle, O. (2019a, December 20). The history of collegiate recovery. Association of Recovery in Higher Education: ARHE.
  • Starting a collegiate recovery program. Association of Recovery in Higher Education: ARHE. (2022, September 2). (ARHE)
  • What is a peer?. Mental Health America. (n.d.).


  • Karrie Gilroy, University of West Georgia |
Powered By GrowthZone
Scroll To Top