Can You Send Your Teen in Addiction Recovery to College?

Posted on July 14th, 2015
Posted in Teens

You experienced what every parent dreads: a teen with a drug or alcohol addiction. You got her the help she needed. She went through a rehab program and was successful at getting sober. Not only that, but she was able to get back to high school, graduate and get accepted to colleges. All the while you’ve had her under your roof and your supervision, and you’re terrified to send her off to a college campus. Is it possible? Or are you tempting fate and putting her in a position to relapse? These are important questions to ask and to discuss with your teen.

Reality of Drinking and Drug Use on College Campuses

You are right to be worried about sending a teen in recovery from addiction to a college campus, especially if she is early in her recovery. Her resolve to stay sober may be strong now, but when temptations are all around, she could easily falter. According to the data, four out of five college students drink, and of those, half binge drink. Abuse of illicit and prescription drugs has been rising on college campuses for several years.

College campuses are dangerous places for anyone in recovery. Triggers can be deadly for addicts in recovery, and there is no bigger trigger than being around people who are using. In spite of this, there are ways that you can feel good about sending your teen to college. Start by having a conversation with your teen. Explain your worries to her and let her talk about her own concerns.

Helping Your Teen Stay Sober on Campus

If you both decide that continuing with her higher education is the right move, there are steps you can take to protect her and to empower her to stay sober in the face of temptation. Here are some important ways that both of you can work together to help her have a positive college experience:

  • Start with community college. Sometimes a transition to full-time campus life is a good idea. If your teen starts out with a year at community college, she can still live at home and start dipping her toes into the pool of college life.
  • Find sober-friendly campuses. In selecting a college to attend, your teen can look for those schools that promote and support sobriety. There are a few campuses that are totally sober, but you can also find universities with good programs and organizations for students who want to stay sober.
  • Join a recovery group at school. A lot of schools have sober student groups, but also groups that are specific to students in recovery. These clubs can provide much-needed support for a teen who otherwise might feel lost among her drinking and drug-using peers.
  • Find a therapist your teen can easily access. Peer support at college is great, but it isn’t treatment. As you and your teen know, addiction is a chronic illness that needs continuing treatment. Help her find a good drug counselor on or near campus so she can start sessions if she feels that she needs it.
  • Trust her. Make sure that your teen knows you trust her judgment and that your concerns are about her illness. Be protective but not overbearing.

As scary as it may be, you eventually have to let go of your teen, even if she is an addict in recovery. She may need a little more guidance and support as she begins her journey into higher education than the average student, but she can be sober on campus. With peer and professional support, as well as support from you, she will be successful.

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