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Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex brain disorder that is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli without regard for consequence. Addiction can be explained as “a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory.” Although the cause of substance use disorder remains unknown, there are certain factors (e.g., environmental factors, genetic factors, psychological factors, socioeconomic factors, etc.) that can increase one’s risk of addiction. Further, an individual’s behaviors have the propensity to contribute to the development of substance use disorder, which makes college students particularly vulnerable to addiction. 

Challenges & Strategies

College students overcoming addiction are faced with many challenges, some of which include:

  • A typical college environment generally offers easy access to drugs and alcohol, which essentially promotes the misuse of substances. This can be especially triggering to an individual overcoming addiction.
  • A wide breadth of literature on college student mental health suggests that the various life transitions and stressors experienced by college students increases their risk of mental health complications (e.g., depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorder, suicidal ideation, etc.). Mental health problems interfere with an individual’s ability to cope which can pose as a serious threat to one’s recovery.
  • Although addiction is recognized as a brain disorder it remains highly stigmatized, which creates challenges for students who wish to be open about their recovery efforts, limiting their ability to cultivate a meaningful support network of peers.

While every individual is unique with distinct needs, there are certain strategies that can help students maintain sobriety throughout college. U.S. News & World Report offers an array of suggestions for college students battling addiction, such as: 

  • Cultivate healthy friendships: Studies show that humans are happier when they have a strong social network that includes positive, long-term relationships. Creating a healthy circle of friends can be uplifting and inspirational during one’s journey through recovery. Maintaining a sober and healthy social life can be very helpful to one’s recovery. 
  • Stay active: Finding healthy pastimes and carving out ample time to engage in recreational activities and hobbies that bring you joy is essential to maintaining sobriety.
    • Exercise or engage in movement regularly: The Academy of Neurological Therapy asserts that “exercise has been shown to help improve and prevent many conditions, including: weight management, stress levels, emotional regulation/ mood, memory, attention, strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and blood pressure regulation.” 
    • Explore relaxation methods: Consider trying meditation, yoga, reading, listening to music, etc. to help quiet your mind. Research has found that meditation can help lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve insomnia, and more. 
    • Explore your creative side: Engaging in creativity can be an excellent emotional outlet and mood booster; consider painting, sculpting, journaling, etc.
  • Get enough sleep: Go to bed at a decent time to give your body and mind sufficient rest. Cultivating healthy sleep habits can help you stay mentally, physically, and emotionally fit. Further, ample sleep can help your body expel toxins, as evidence indicates that “when one sleeps, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day.”
  • Avoid triggers: While there are certain triggers that may be unavoidable, it is important to try and avoid those that are. Developing and adhering to a regular routine can help with this while also providing you with structure and security. 
  • Know where help is: The very nature of addiction is that of a relapsing disorder, so it is important to have a sense of where to get help, should you need it. 

Student affairs professionals in colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to build an infrastructure of formal and informal supports for this underserved and at-risk student population.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.