5 Reasons Students in Recovery are at Risk for Relapse

studens taking a testAn estimated 5.3 to 15.3 percent of college students are in recovery.1  These students face many situations, life transitions, and stressors that challenge their sobriety daily. There are several unique factors that make college life especially risky for individuals in early recovery and the following five reasons are some of the main causes of student relapse.

1. College students are more likely to develop mental health problems.

College students are particularly vulnerable to stress and mental health problems due to increased life transitions and stressors. Such stressors include holding a full or part-time job while in school, maintaining high grades, and making new friends. Maintaining sobriety in the midst of all this is yet another challenge that students in recovery face. All of these factors increase students’ risks for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Students also frequently use drugs and alcohol as a means to reduce stress and anxiety or to improve academic performance. For example, Adderall, a stimulant drug otherwise known as the “study drug,” is often abused by college students as a means to pull all-nighters by stimulating alertness and productivity.

As substance abuse and mental health problems often exist simultaneously, students in recovery should safeguard their sobriety by minimizing stressors as much as possible. During the first year of recovery, students may want to take on a smaller workload each semester or only commit to part-time enrollment instead of full-time.

2. College campus environments can threaten sobriety.

College campuses are full of threats to recovery and students will face situations and triggers that challenge their sobriety on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many students and even faculty view college drinking as a social norm or a rite of passage. Even holiday breaks such as spring break tend to revolve around drug and alcohol use. As a result, substance-free policies and attitudes are not always heavily enforced.

In addition, many college social events also involve alcohol or drug use. It’s natural for students in recovery to desire social interaction and feel a need to be accepted and part of a peer community on campus. Unfortunately, this often involves participating in binge drinking, going to parties where drugs and alcohol are readily available, or being subjected to hazing rituals as part of an initiation. These situations can be detrimental to a student’s long-term sobriety and should be avoided at all costs.

Students in recovery may find that maintaining their sobriety is much easier living off-campus or at home. Students who choose to attend college away from home may find that a Eudaimonia sober living home in Austin, Houston, or Colorado provides the support, accountability, and social involvement they need to continue their recovery journey while also enjoying a sober college experience.

3. Drugs and alcohol are easily accessible.

The availability of drugs and alcohol both on and off campus makes maintaining sobriety in college even more difficult. College students can easily get cheap alcohol around college campuses and drugs are often easy to obtain through other students or nearby dealers as well. Campus events like football games, annual celebrations, or fraternity/sorority parties can exacerbate the situation, increasing the availability of substances and making them even harder to resist.

Students who return to a harmful living environment after rehab are much more likely to relapse. As a result, it may be wise to delay returning to school for a year, or if they must go back immediately, live off campus at a sober living home or with a sober family member who actively supports their recovery goals.

4. Students in recovery may become isolated.

Because substance abuse can be viewed as a norm on college campuses, students who decide to abstain from it may feel isolated from their peers. Additionally, while attending school, students in recovery may not have any off campus support, further isolating them from a recovery community. Isolation can increase feelings of depression, lower self-esteem, and increase the risk of relapse, so it’s important for students to establish relationships with sober friends and become a part of a recovery community both on and off campus.

A great way to establish community support is to enroll in Eudaimonia’s peer recovery support program or Intensive Outpatient Program in Austin or Houston. These recovery support programs are perfect for active students in recovery because they provide flexibility, accountability, peer support, and consistency at a time when it is needed most. Early recovery is a very vulnerable time, especially for students, but these extended care programs can help students safeguard their recovery and maintain long-term sobriety.

5. Students have more independence away from home.

In college, students aren’t bound by the rules of their parent’s homes anymore. They experience a drastic increase in independence, personal freedoms, and unstructured time. After inpatient rehab, they also won’t be living alongside their peers in recovery anymore, which makes it easier to fall away from the consistent daily routine they developed during that time.

Sleep deprivation, lack of nutrition and exercise, and a lack of structure may all be results of this increased independence, and if students don’t choose to prioritize their physical health and recovery goals on a daily basis, they may find themselves falling back into old habits.

Accountability is key to maintaining a sober lifestyle while going to college. That’s why we provide extended support services and structured sober living homes for students in recovery. Our staff has been in your shoes and they know exactly what it takes to continue living a life of sobriety, even in the face of temptations and challenges.

Interpersonal support and safe living environments are essential for students in recovery and our extended support services will provide experience living life in recovery before taking on the unique challenges that sober students face.

If you are a student in recovery and are interested in learning more about our sober living homes and extended care services in Austin and Houston, please contact our admissions team today.



  1. http://www.cls.umd.edu/docs/CRP.pdf
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/fall09/articles/fall09pg24-25.html
  3. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/09/crisis-campus.aspx
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3134882/
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