What Are Addiction Recovery High Schools?

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Teenagers addicted to drugs or alcohol often need specialized care to have the best chances at lasting sobriety. Recovery high schools provide this care by integrating addiction treatment and traditional schooling into one program.

What Are Addiction Recovery High Schools?

Substance abuse is a growing problem among teenagers, and many teens facing addiction cannot receive the recovery care and support they need in traditional high schools.

Most teens return to high school after receiving addiction treatment at a rehab facility, but this can expose them to the same peers or situations that contributed to their substance use.

However, there is a rising number of specialized high schools dedicated to helping teenagers overcome substance abuse while still receiving an education.

These programs provide small, tight-knit peer communities that teenagers with addiction can rely on for support in recovery.

Substance Abuse Among Teenagers

Although certain types of substance abuse, such as cigarette smoking or drinking alcohol, are declining in teenagers, other types of substance use continue or are increasing.

Overdoses, in particular, have been rising sharply among people aged 15 to 24. Some of this can be attributed to the increased presence of fentanyl-laced drugs.

One study found that more than 8% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 said they had used drugs in the last month, and about half of teens try illicit drugs by the time they reach 12th grade.

More than 60% of teenagers have abused alcohol by the time they graduate from high school, and the continuing legalization of marijuana across the nation has made it one of the most commonly used substances among young people..

Who Can Benefit From Attending A Recovery High School?

Many teens in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction can benefit from attending a recovery high school.

Students in these programs have often dealt with:

  • weekly use of substances
  • comorbid mental health disorders
  • repeated trouble with law enforcement
  • severe withdrawal symptoms
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • financial difficulties

Some recovery high schools require students to complete a traditional rehab program before entering school. They must also agree to stay abstinent or continue receiving outpatient treatment.

These schools can be beneficial to students who have struggled with staying sober in traditional public education by removing negative outside influences and combating addiction stigma.

Recovery High School Curriculum And Addiction Treatment

Recovery high schools are often very small, with enrollment ranging from 10 to 100 students and averaging about 25 students. These programs may be separate entities or attached to traditional public schools.

Addiction can cause students to fall behind in traditional education, and recovery high schools combat this by tailoring their teaching services to each individual student.

Many teens who face addiction have also experienced trauma, whether it be from family experiences, sexual abuse, poverty, or other factors, and recovery schools often provide mental health care as well.

Addiction counseling, peer support groups, 12-step programming, and other evidence-based treatment services are common aspects of recovery high schools.

Where Can I Find Recovery High Schools?

The first recovery high school opened in 1987, and there are currently 34 recovery high schools throughout the United States.

These programs are known by several names, including “sober schools,” “alternative schools,” and “area learning centers.”

Recovery high schools can be found in:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Many of these schools belong to the Association of Recovery Schools, a nationwide organization that keeps track of all the recovery programs available to high school students.

Some of these schools receive taxpayer funding, including charter schools, while others may rely on grants and donations to provide services.

Success Rates Of Recovery High Schools

The success rates of these programs can vary based on several factors, but many have found success in treating students and helping them graduate with their diplomas.

Some schools allow students to stay until graduation, while others encourage teens to work toward integrating into traditional high schools.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that 71% of students in these programs felt much better about their academic success after entering a recovery high school.

Although there are few reports on the graduation statistics of these programs, one school in Indiana reported that 34 out of 35 students in one class went on to college or another higher education program.

Find Help For A Substance Use Disorder

If you or a loved one is battling drug addiction or alcohol abuse, you are not alone. Contact us today to learn more about finding addiction recovery options.


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