Universities need more addiction recovery programs

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This fall, the University of Windsor is offering a recovery program for students battling addiction. It’s only the second Canadian university to do so.

The fact that recovery programs aren’t more accessible for students on campus is a sad reality, especially when universities are breeding grounds for heavy drinking culture.

On Monday, Queen’s announced the new launch of an eight-week program to help students suffering from substance abuse at both Queen’s and St. Lawrence College.

We need more permanent programs like this not only at Queen’s, but at Canadian universities as a whole. While this new program is a positive step, it can’t be the only one of its kind; the University must continue to offer programs like this in future years.

Addiction comes in many forms. Whether it involves alcohol or drugs, addiction can affect youth just as frequently as adults. Nicotine usage, in particular, has spiked with the rise of vaping, though alcoholism among young adults is also more common than one might suspect.

While many universities offer students mental health services, a majority lack programs devoted entirely to addiction. Addiction can stem from many things, whether it’s trauma, underlying mental health issues, or it’s hereditary, which is why a program of its own is vital.

While we should recognize the ways addiction and mental health overlap, mental health isn’t an umbrella term—addiction should be treated as its own issue, especially when those suffering need specialized support.

At Queen’s, like many other institutions, overusing drugs and alcohol is often considered fairly normal, despite the fact that the behaviour is dangerous and can quickly become a dependence.

Addiction is often a lifelong battle, meaning we need to give students the tools to recover early on.

Creating on-campus recovery programs would help reduce the stigma around addiction and create a dialogue among students about their drinking habits. But we shouldn’t stop there—it’s important we give students the tools to fight addiction as early as high school.

High schoolers do learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but they’re cautioned against them rather than taught how to use them safely. Likewise, for years students have been taught that marijuana is a gateway drug, even though it’s now legal in Canada.

If we revamp high school drug and alcohol courses to warn students about the dangers of addiction while also giving them resources if they choose to engage with these substances, students can make smarter choices as a whole and know where to get help if they need it.

Many students are going to drink and use drugs regardless of the stance universities take on them. Instead of simply condemning excessive substance abuse, addiction recovery programs must become the rule among universities, not the exception.

—Journal Editorial Board

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