Make sure you’re sitting down before I tell you this: There are people in college with drinking problems.
In fact, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Young adults ages 18 to 25 are most likely to binge or drink heavily. Fifty-four percent of the drinkers in this age group binge and about one in four are heavy drinkers.”
According to another survey by NIDA, 2.1 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 are “heavy drinkers,” which is defined by the group as “consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days.”
Most campuses have counseling for recovering alcoholics or drug addicts. Rutgers University, took it a step further. The solution: recovery housing.
Since 1988, Rutgers has provided housing for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, away from the temptations of a regular dorm. It’s an excellent idea, considering that most college students spend more money on beer than on books.
A culture of Animal House, frat parties, “Thirsty Thursdays,” beer pong and other alcohol and drug related activities can be a living hell for a recovering alcoholic. Alcoholics don’t drink to have fun. They drink because their body craves alcohol and because if they don’t drink they undergo withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, or anxiety, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
There is no cure for alcoholism. It is one of the hardest addictions to overcome partly because alcohol is a part of our culture, especially college culture. Alcoholics need to be surrounded by people who want them to stop drinking and will empathize with their struggles.
Like Temple’s Honors housing or housing based on majors, students with similar backgrounds live together and support each other. But, there is a key difference between honors students, for example, and those in recovery dorms: the intense social stigma attached to addiction, especially at a young age.
This is why anonymity is as important as sobriety when residents leave their houses. The house at Case Western Reserve University is unmarked and just a block off campus. Every resident must have an approved treatment plan, usually including Alcoholics Anonymous or counseling. At Rutgers, there are strict anonymity rules and students meet monthly to cope with their problems. Recovery housing allows students to focus on their studies and their recovery, and why any school would not implement this eludes me.
Nationwide there are very few schools that have instituted the program. According to an Associated Press article on a recovery house at Case Western Reserve, located in Cleveland, Oh., there are less than half a dozen schools with recovery dorms.
Temple has many counseling groups for students, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and peer groups like Campus Alcohol and Substance Awareness. However, once meetings are over, students return to dormitory buildings with stained rugs from vomiting, invitations to parties and persistent temptation.
While alcoholics cannot avoid situations with alcohol forever, they should not be faced with it during recovery. They should be eased into the situation when they’re stronger. Could we put everyone with a drinking problem in a recovery house? No. Rutgers and Case Western Reserve both have an application process for their houses. They are for people who acknowledge they have a problem and want to recover.
A recovery house may not be possible for Temple immediately, but it is a viable option that could help curb drinking problems and should be discussed at Temple and nationwide. For those who are willing, recovery housing provides comfort, encouragement and companionship for recovering addicts and helps them support one another on the road to recovery.
When asked about his experience at the recovery house at Rutgers, a student responded, “College is a place to party … the recovery house is an oasis for us.”
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.