Survey Looks at Collegiate Recovery Programs

The first federally funded nationwide survey of college students in recovery shows that many college students participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs) for substance abuse also report being in recovery from or currently engaging in multiple behavioral disorders, a new survey finds. These behavioral issues, also called process addictions or co-occurring disorders, include eating disorders, sex addictions and other difficulties.

The survey was headed by Alexandre B. Laudet, PhD, Director of the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery at the National Development and Research Institutes in New York. Nearly 500 students participating in CRPs completed the survey. They reported past use of numerous substances, and most had a severe addiction history in spite of their young age.

The survey found the majority of students said they were in recovery from alcoholism, and from drug addiction. Many also reported being in recovery from behavioral addictions such as eating disorders, sex/love addiction, self-harm, and compulsive shopping. At least 12 percent said they were currently engaging in at least one type of behavioral addiction.

Laudet says that addiction treatment needs to address the whole persons so that they can function at a healthy level. If a student quits drinking but begins other addictive behaviors like compulsive eating, shopping or sex, they are still not functioning at a healthy level. “We need to start asking questions about behavioral addictions, and designing programs that help people deal with different addictions in an integrated way, ” she exclaimed.

Much is still not known about how different addictions interact and how behavioral addictions affect recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, Dr. Laudet notes.

According to the survey, 75 percent of college students in CRPs have been treated for a chronic mental health condition at some point in their lives. Among those who said they had treated for a mental health disorder, nearly 66 percent said they were treated for the disorder in the past year.

The findings will be published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

CRPs began about 30 years ago, providing sober dorms and recovery support meetings on campus. As substance use on college campuses became increasingly recognized as a public health issue, experts and federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education have called for campus-based services for recovering students.

Dr. Laudet says, “These programs are built on peer support, and creating a safe place. We need many more such programs on college campuses around the country.”