Addiction treatment for college students

College students are a unique group with specific requirements for addiction treatment. More on best practices in addiction treatment for college students and what people in collegiate recovery can expect here.

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Partying is a well known pastime in many colleges, particularly those with strong Greek presences. Unfortunately, after being swept up in the party scene, many college students, just like other demographics, will develop a substance abuse problem. College students are also much less likely than their non-student counterparts to seek addiction treatment. While some may cite other outside reasons for not seeking addiction treatment, many believe that they don’t need treatment.

So what does successful addiction treatment for college students look like? And what can a college student expect when seeking addiction treatment?  We review here.  Then, we invite your questions about addiction treatment and college at the end.

College student addiction treatment barriers

College students more than anyone know that there are obstacles that one usually faces, even after they finally realize that they need treatment. College student addiction treatment barriers vary from one student to the next, and generally depend on each student’s individual situation. Some of the more common college student addiction treatment barriers, however, are listed below.

●    Denial
●    Lack of health insurance
●    Exorbitant cost
●    Heavy class load or other time conflicts
●    Perceived stigma surrounding treatment
●    Easy access to drugs or alcohol
●    Prior failed addiction treatment
●    Trouble finding a treatment facility to meet individual needs

Some conditions that help college students seeking addiction treatment include:

Flexibility. Juggling a heavy class load, work, and other responsibilities is typically very difficult for college students, and addiction treatment simply does not fit into their schedule. Addiction treatment for college students must be flexible to allow for the completion of a degree program and a work schedule.

Positive support systems. College addiction treatment programs should also emphasize the importance of family support, which can greatly increase the chances of success.

On-campus support.  The college itself should also take an active role in addiction treatment for their students, since this can help college students finish earning their degrees while getting the help that they need.

College students and addiction treatment

Fortunately, there are a few different options when it comes to college students and addiction treatment. The best type of addiction treatment for a college student will typically depend on his or her individual situation. Three main types of addiction treatment include:

1. Outpatient addiction treatment – Outpatient addiction treatment is typically the most flexible type of treatment. Since college students aren’t required to reside in a treatment facility during outpatient treatment, they are able to still attend classes and even work. On the other hand, outpatient treatment isn’t always as effective as inpatient treatment.

2. Inpatient addiction treatment – Inpatient addiction treatment requires a college student to reside in the treatment facility. Although this minimizes the risk of relapse and increases the chances of success, it also makes it very hard for students to continue their studies. Some colleges, however, may be willing to work with students who need inpatient addiction treatment.

3. Partial inpatient addiction treatment – A cross between inpatient and outpatient treatment, partial inpatient treatment requires recovering addicts to attend daily treatment sessions, usually for several hours each day. However, recovering addicts are not required to spend all of their time in the facility. This leaves them time to continue taking classes and working toward their degrees.

College student drug addiction treatment

Drug addiction treatment for college students should be slightly more flexible and engaging than traditional drug addiction treatment. However, college student drug addiction typically follows the same steps as other types of drug treatment.

Step 1: Assessment

Every college student drug addiction treatment program starts with an initial assessment. Usually conducted by an addiction specialist, the assessment is used to make a drug dependency diagnosis and plan the course of treatment. For instance, the type and duration of treatment that a college student should have is usually determined during the assessment. Other underlying mental health problems, such as depression, might also be diagnosed at this time.

Step 2: Withdrawal and detox

After a college student stops taking drugs or drinking, he or she will then go through a detox period. This is the period of time that the body takes to rid itself of any substances and tries to go back to functioning without drugs or alcohol. Although college students can detox at home, they are often advised to do so in a detox center or at least under the supervision of a medical professional. Doing so helps reduce the chances of a relapse and gives medical professionals the chance to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Step 3: Entry into treatment

The actual college student drug addiction treatment consists of several different aspects. This typically includes individual behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family counseling. Medications may also be used during treatment to quell cravings.

Step 4: Aftercare

Once a college student completes a drug addiction treatment program, they’re still a long way from being “cured”. Addiction treatment aftercare is an important and long process. College students will often find that they need months or even years of continuing outpatient therapy in order to stay clean and sober. Some may even need a short stay in a transitional living facility, or halfway house.

Addicted college students

Where can addicted college students get help?  For many addicted college students, finding suitable treatment is half of the battle. Addicted college students may be unsure where to go or who to talk to if they need treatment. The good news is that there are a number of people and places college students can turn to if they need addiction treatment.

1. Parents

Although it may be difficult, some of the best people to ask for help are parents. They are often more understanding and helpful than most college students expect, and they care about the health, well-being, and future of their children. Not only can they help find addiction treatment, but they may also be able to help financially as well.

2. Collegiate medical or mental health centers

Most colleges are very aware of addiction and its effects on addicted college students. Because of this, they typically take a proactive role in helping addicted college students. Colleges often have addiction programs in place to help students find addiction treatment programs that can be completed while still in school. Addicted college students should speak to a counselor or nurse in their school’s health clinic.

3. Medical professionals

Addicted college students who are unwilling or unable to go to their parents or school can also usually find addiction treatment on their own as well. Doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals, for instance, will often be able to diagnose and refer addicted college students to treatment facilities.

4. Government agencies

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has a treatment facility locator that college students can use to find local facilities that offer special services based on their individual situations.

College student addiction questions

Struggling with an addiction as young adult in college, often gives a poor start in life. It can affect relationships, grades, and health. Therefore, it’s imperative that college students get help for their problem as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know is an addicted college student, addiction questions are normal. Feel free to ask anything you want in the comments section below, and we’ll try to get back to you shortly. Have an experience you’d like to share as an addicted college student? We’d love to hear from you as well, and our readers may find your experiences valuable too.

Reference Sources: Youth Research Hub: Beyond Denial and Low Motivation: Examining Barriers to Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment
NCBI: College Students Rarely Seek Help Despite Serious Substance Use Problems
NCBI: Table 3
College Drinking-Changing the Culture: Fall Semester-A Time For Parents To Revisit Discussions About College Drinking


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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