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The Sobering Facts About College Sobriety

As we send our kids off to college, the list of worries swirling around in our heads seems to grow exponentially: Will my child be able to handle the work? Make friends? Stay healthy? Stay safe? But what if your child has already faced the major challenge of sobriety in high school? The temptations built into college life may seem insurmountable.

The good news is that colleges have begun to recognize the importance of supporting these students. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education reports that 95% of students involved in collegiate recovery programs maintain their recovery, while relapse rates in the general population range from 40% to 60%. If your child has struggled with drugs or alcohol during his high school years and is about to go off to college, look beyond policies the school may have on drinking. So-called “dry” schools and schools promising enforcement of underage drinking laws, are no guarantee that drinking or other substance abuse problems are under control. Be sure to research whether or not the school has an actual “recovery” program and the types of services offered by the program. Many colleges now offer “sober living” environments. This can mean anything from sober housing to a multi-layered program that includes continued recovery support, crisis management, relapse prevention, and academic assistance for students transitioning from recovery to school. A good place to begin your research is the Association of Recovery in Higher Education website. It includes a directory of schools offering on-campus programs. For more information about schools with “sober” dorms, click here. An additional concern for many parents is whether or not a student will develop addiction problems once they are away at college. Again, research the availability of support for this situation as well. One way you can stay ahead of this problem is to be sure you have access to your student’s school records. Insist on having your student sign the FERPA waiver that allows this prior to your child beginning school. Click here for information on this process.Then, if you suspect a problem, you can check to see if there has been a decline in school performance and/or attendance. If you don’t have a Ferpa waiver and suspect a problem, suggests the following:

  • Contact the dean of students and ask that he meet with your kid.

  • Contact the student’s residential assistant (RA) and ask what she may have observed.

  • Get yourself to the campus and lay eyes on your kid yourself.

For children who are at risk to relapse or to begin substance abuse, getting help as soon as possible is the key to helping them successfully complete their college education.

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