University of Texas Adopts Student-Led Approach to Recovery

By McCarton Ackerman 03/19/15

Recovery programs have grown exponentially across the country.

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With incidents of binge drinking and drug overdoses on college campuses making headlines more often in recent years, many wonder where the resources are for students. But rather than hold meetings in a dingy basement somewhere on campus, the University of Texas is making recovery as luxurious as possibly by offering first-rate facilities for those who arguably need them most.

The Center for Students in Recovery, largely run by students, is located in the plush athletic facilities attached to the university’s football stadium, which include steam rooms and dance studios. But the location is also strategic because it means recovering addicts mingle with student-athletes, gaining inspiration from a different group of people who have also put partying to the side. Those in the program also give back to their community by engaging in volunteer projects, as well as speaking in high schools and drug-treatment facilities.

Students make it a point to mentor each other and establish bonds. And if one relapses, there are no punitive consequences and the student is welcome back any time as long as they’re willing to put in the work to move forward.

"What it really gave me was an environment where it was safe to socialize," said Lizette Smith, who was abusing Adderall by the age of 14. “It also provided me [with] a lot of outlets. It gave me opportunities to volunteer and meet new people. And it really built my self-esteem."

Ivana Grahovac, the executive director of Transforming Youth Recovery in Del Mar, Calif., said that approximately 135 colleges and universities have recovery programs. That’s up from 35 two years ago and just 10 a decade ago.

Texas Tech is arguably the best college for students in recovery due to its treatment program being endowed with $2.5 million from anonymous donors. The program serves 80 students and grants scholarships of $1,000-6,000 to about 50. About 80% of the center’s students graduate and only 6% relapse, resulting in the university receiving $700,000 in federal funding to teach other schools how to do the same.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.