The college years are known for being a time of wild parties and experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Although you might not see too many full-blown drug addicts and alcoholics at universities – or at least not for long – you do see a whole lot of binge drinking and general substance abuse.

When most people think of living on a college campus, they think of “Animal House” type shenanigans. One would hardly ever think of – gasp – a sober living environment. But it makes so much sense its almost astonishing that it isn’t more common. I mean, college creates is an environment in which the newly-adulted population begins experimenting, and sometimes does so unfettered, due to a lack of financial or parental restrictions.

Rutgers University – A Progressive Approach To Student Addiction

Rutgers University in New Jersey first pioneered the concept of sober living in 1988. According to their website and ADAP (Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program), the Recovery House is an on-campus residence hall which offers a 12-month housing option and personal anonymity.

Benefits of sober living here include access to counseling, ADAP, medical services, 12-step meetings, and other university resources. There are also organized activities, including sport events, plays, hikes, biking, and other on-campus events.

Both the New Brunswick and Newark campuses offer sober living housing. As a requirement, students who gain residence in the dorms must have been sober for at least 90 days.

Many students nationwide have transferred to Rutgers University solely to gain access to its sober living home and resources.

But years later, a nationwide opioid epidemic has prompted other universities to follow in the Rutger footsteps. For example, in 2015, Governor Christie signed a bill that requires every state-run university and college in New Jersey to offer sober living housing if 25% of students reside on campus. The law allows 4 years for schools to comply.

However, last fall, the College of New Jersey also opened up its own sober dorm. Later this year, Oregon State University pledges to do the same.

College Substance Abuse Statistics

The problem isn’t a new one. Students who abuse drugs and alcohol have higher drop out rates and generally poorer performance. Parties and bars are also hotbeds of young people waiting to take advantage of un-sober situations. That is, date rape and acquaintance rape are extremely common. Not to mention generally poor judgement when it comes to sexual activities.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future Survey (2013):

Alcohol Abuse

Over one-third (35%) of college students reported binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one session) in the previous two weeks.

That’s 4% higher than persons in the same group not attending college – a fact that reveals higher education does not necessarily foster impulsive control or good judgement.

About 40% of college students reported having been drunk in the previous month, which is 6% higher than non-college respondents in the the same age group.

Around 4% of college students reported daily drinking. That may not sound like much, but may equate to 2,000 or more undergraduate students in a very large university. That sounds like a lot of students who could use addiction recovery services.


More than one-third (36%) of college students reported they used marijuana in the previous year, 6% higher than the non-college group of the same age.

Daily marijuana use was reported at twice the rate among college students versus non-college persons of the same age. In fact, daily use of marijuana among college students is the highest it has been in 30 years.


College students reported non-prescription use of stimulants Adderall (10.7%) and Ritalin (3.6%) at somewhat higher rates than non-college persons of equal age. Amphetamine use nearly doubled between 2008-2013.

Other Institutions with Sober Living

Just a few years ago, many college students with addiction disorders didn’t have many resources, other than maybe the local chapter of AA. But currently. at least 150 higher-learning institutions in 49 states offer a recovery program (if not sober housing) including on-campus counseling and community activities.

William Paterson University, also in New Jersey, offers White Hall Recovery Housing. Founded in 2008, this residence is integrated into the general hall community. It includes up to 20 students, and offers an individualized recovery plan, therapy, and social activities.

Case Western Reserve University in Ohio also has a Recovery House, founded in 2004. However, it is a small, two-unit apartment house, with no sobriety minimum and no firm relapse rules. It has six beds, and is run by residents.

Texas Tech University has sober housing founded in 2008. This residence consists of a one-floor dormitory, where students with one year of sobriety can live together collaboratively. Residents must attend 12-step meetings and maintain good academic standing.

St. Scholastica College in Minnesota offers the Clean Recovery Program, established 2010. Here, there is a college-sponsored sober living residence/recovery program, which also includes access to the greater Duluth community. It houses up to 20 men and women, most of which are students.

The University of Vermont CRC Cottages were founded in 2011, and serve around 20 students. Residential sober living housing has a minimum sobriety requirement, along with mandatory recovery group meetings and activities.