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April 20, 2016

MSU substance use recovery program helps students cope with addiction

Addiction doesn’t discriminate, but teens and young adults are at an increased risk of substance abuse.

With 90 percent of alcohol- and drug-related issues developing between the ages of 12 and 20, a 2014 Transforming Youth Recovery survey found that the number of college students seeking treatment for addiction has increased by 143 percent over the course of a decade.

In response to this, Michigan State University has become one of 145 colleges and universities across the country to implement a structured system of support that helps recovering students.

The MSU Collegiate Recovery Community began in 2013, and continues to serve as a safe haven where students with similar challenges and goals have the opportunity to connect on campus. Run by MSU’s Health Promotion Department at Olin Health Center, the program offers peer support, team-building activities, community service opportunities and a licensed social worker to aid students at various stages throughout their recovery.

“Peer support is the most important part our program,” said Emily Young, MSU health promotion specialist. “We know that support [from peers] is the number one factor in a young individual’s ability to maintain abstinence, so having that venue for students to meet each other is really important.”

In affiliation with the CRC, the student-led Traveler’s Club plays a central role in this peer support by breaking the stigma of addiction and leading by example. The organization hosts weekly, informal gatherings where students can share their stories and open up about their recovery.

“We just try to show the newer members that recovery is nothing to be ashamed of,” Young said. “Showing what recovery looks like versus what active addiction looked like can make a big difference in public perception.”

In the program’s 2015 survey, 67 percent of students identified the CRC as an important factor in deciding to attend MSU.

With the proper support in place, Young said these students have higher retention and graduation rates than their non-recovering peers. According to the survey, all students involved in the CRC reported a GPA above 3.0, while 57 percent maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above. In addition, results showed an average duration of abstinence of about two years.

“This is vital programming,” Young said. “Early intervention and recovery services have to be a priority because of how rampant addiction is in this age group. If we catch it at this time, we give these students the opportunity to live long, healthy, successful lives.”

For more information on the Collegiate Recovery Program, visit