Struggling College Students with Addiction: How to Get them Help

College aged girl taking a test

It's the time of year when our high school graduates will be leaving home, headed for college, and their first experience living on their own. With newfound freedom, many will be exposed to the dangers of drugs and alcohol for the first time. While many may have experimented with substance use in high school, college offers an opportunity for unchecked addictions to surface without the accountability that most students have at home. In some cases, access to substances and this lack of accountability can create a perfect storm for struggling college students with addiction.

As parents, this can be one of our greatest fears. Our kids are exposed to the pressures of life on their own, new social anxieties, and the pressure to perform at their best. With little experience or knowledge of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, many find that their substance use can easily get out of hand. In a survey conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), researchers report that “Approximately 2 out of every 5 college students of all ages (more than 40 percent) reported binge drinking at least once in the 2 weeks prior.”

The good news is there are many resources available to help college students overcome addictions and learn healthy coping mechanisms. There are many options available to support college students with addiction while keeping up with or improving their studies.

1. Keep open lines of conversation

Open and honest conversation about the struggles of college life is an excellent way to help new college freshmen adapt to their new lifestyle in a healthy manner. Remember that a nonjudgmental approach will help your college student feel safe and express themselves freely. Research has shown that addiction is very much a disease and not a moral failing – and that help is very obtainable for any issue that arises at school. Continue conversations throughout your student’s college experience, and guide them in finding healthy solutions. This will help your college student feel comfortable when needs arise and they need to ask for help.

2. Find resources through campus services

With the current increase in need for mental health services on campus, nearly all colleges and universities now provide mental health services to students. Larger schools will most certainly have a health center, where medical and mental health services are offered for free or at a greatly discounted rate. Therapists and psychiatrists are readily available to help students navigate the transition to independent life. For smaller schools that may have fewer resources on campus, referrals may be provided to partnered services for students.

3. Lighten course loads and live at home

Many times, the transition from home to university life may be too much to handle all at once. This is especially true for students who don’t handle change well. Two factors especially play into this – the increased pressure to maintain a high academic performance combined with the new atmosphere and lack of social support. This creates an environment of high pressure and anxiety combined with few resources to manage stress. When you add in the newfound freedom of living on their own, it creates all of the right conditions for an addiction to develop.

To help minimize this, students can transfer to schools close to home or find off-campus sober-supportive housing. Reduce course loads to the minimum and opt for a less-intense subject matter. In severe cases, taking a year off to acclimate will help college students with addiction adapt to the life changes they face in their transition to adulthood and independence.

For more information about sober-supportive housing programs, contact Miracles In Action at (818) 287-0080.

4. Consider outpatient treatment options

If addiction is a legitimate concern and the student needs additional support, intensive outpatient treatment is an excellent option to get back on track. In an outpatient addiction treatment program, students will have long-term support through recovery groups, addiction education, and one-on-one therapy. This can be especially helpful for students who may struggle in social situations. An outpatient program will provide a safe place for those who struggle to reach out for help or express the feelings and emotions that they’re experiencing.

Intensive outpatient programs are offered on evenings or weekends, and can easily be scheduled around work or school schedules. This means that a student can continue with a manageable course load while attending a supportive program and get the help they need. Miracles In Action offers several outpatient treatment options that are ideal for struggling college students. We accept most health insurance policies or offer very competitive cash pay options. For more information, contact us at (818) 287-0080.

5. Attend local recovery and 12-step support groups

For long-term support, students will find great benefit in attending 12-step or other support groups. These support groups may be recovery-focused for addictions, or more specific to problems such as anxiety, depression, or stress management. These groups are also safe places to share struggles and emotional issues and are a great option for long-term support. Most support groups are offered free of charge, while some facilitator-led groups may charge a small fee.

Help is available for all college students with addiction

Without a doubt, heading off to college for the first time is a huge life change for college students with addiction. Equipping your student for these changes will make a significant difference in the student’s ability to succeed. This is especially true for the first year of college. Miracles In Action is well prepared to help students navigate this life change with compassion and empathy.

For more information on how Miracles In Action can help, call us at (818) 287-0080 or visit us on the web at

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