College Students & Addiction

How to Help Students Overcome Drug and Alcohol Use

Though trends and motivations are ever-changing, substance use among college students is a widespread and persistent issue. The college environment presents stressors that encourage drug and alcohol experimentation. Over 40–50% of students who did not drink in high school begin drinking their first year of college,1and the highest prevalence of drug use occurs in individuals ages 18 to 24.2

Despite the high rate of substance use compared to other age groups, young adults remain the least likely to seek treatment. 3Colleges and universities may lack resources for students seeking help or guidance. Moreover, students are often unaware of the support options available to them. The consequences of unchecked usage are potentially devastating and long-lasting, ranging from low academic performance to future challenges in the job market.

College substance use is a complex issue that cannot be understated or ignored. By the time most students graduate, they have stopped their substance use, suggesting that college itself plays a vital role. According to recent data, underage drinking decreased as campuses closed their doors for the Covid-19 pandemic, 4further solidifying the notion that college life facilitates alcohol and drug consumption.

As the popularity of different types of drinks and drugs fluctuates, educators must remain vigilant and proactive. By using technologies such as mobile apps and interactive websites, school administrators and other support systems can spread essential information to lessen the chance of substance abuse.

Statistics On Drug Use Among College Students

The NIDA's Reports on College Substance Abuse

“So the highest prevalence rates of drug use…occurs in individuals that are 18 to 24 years of age and, interestingly, we’re seeing that for some of the drugs the rates are even higher among those that are in college than those that are not. [This], in fact in a way, reflects also group dynamics that facilitate drug utilization and normative attitudes towards drug taking and expectation. So that increases the likelihood that your person in college would take drugs.”


—Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

The best way to understand college student drug use is to compare it to graduates and non-college persons of similar age.

Some of the most notable statistics include that:

  • Undergraduates have a significantly higher rate of binge drinking and marijuana use.5
  • Prescription stimulants are more often abused by college students.
  • In a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 59.9% of undergraduates reported drinking alcohol within the past month compared to 50.2% of non-college peers.6

College-bound high school students have also reported drinking less than their non-college-bound peers. This report indicates that the college lifestyle facilitates or pushes students to start drinking.

Current Trends In College Substance Use

  • Alcohol continues to reign supreme, with 75% of students reporting past-year use. Around 40.3% of college women reported being drunk in the last month, compared to 35.5% of college men.7
  • Daily marijuana use among 19 to 22-year-olds is the highest it has been since the 1980s. Almost 5% of college students used marijuana daily or near-daily, and 40% of young adults used marijuana at least once in the past 12 months.8
  • The popularity of vaping is rising, reaching an all-time high in 2019. The 30-day prevalence increased from 5.2% in 2017 to 14% in 2019.8
  • Over the past 10 years, illicit drug use among students in higher education has gradually increased.9

Why Do College Students Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Substances that College Students Abuse

As college-bound students leave the nest, they find themselves with fewer restrictions and a taste of freedom. Without parental interference and outside control over their decisions, college students are more likely to fulfill curiosities and follow peer influence.

According to students, the primary reasons that college campuses encourage drug experimentation are:

  • Ease of drug availability
  • Lack of parental influence
  • Normalization of drug use among peers
  • Low perceived risk of harm from drug use
Freshmen are particularly vulnerable to heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences during their first six weeks.10 First-year students more often attend dormitory and fraternity events where substances are available. Compared to older students, first-years are more likely to participate in drinking games with high-volume alcohol consumption. College life presents a multitude of academic and social stressors that push students to their limits. Substances can be used as a coping method to deal with overwhelming circumstances.

Anxiety and Depression

Along with other mental conditions, major depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are both associated with binge drinking. Experts in the field theorize that substance use is a means of self-medicating. Co-occurring substance abuse and mental conditions can create a vicious cycle where the substance worsens the psychiatric disorder, leading to more substance abuse to cope. 

Body Image

Young adults often feel pressure to look a certain way due to social media and ads. To obtain the “ideal” body image, they may engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors, including substance use. Adderall and other stimulants reduce appetite, leading some to use it as a weight-loss supplement. In 2003, a National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) study found that 50% of people with an eating disorder also misuse alcohol and illicit substances. 11 Up to 35% of alcohol or illicit drug abusers have a co-occurring eating disorder.12

Peer Influence

Upon entering college, students are surrounded by new and unfamiliar people and a desire to fit in. As a result, college students are exceptionally vulnerable to peer pressure and influence. Many engage in substance use to open up and become more comfortable in social interactions. In some circles, heavy drinking is seen as a rite of passage and an avenue for gaining peer approval. One study found that male college students randomly assigned a roommate who binge drank in high school were most likely to engage in binge drinking during college.1

Academic Pressure

The pressure to perform academically can be overwhelming for college students, especially when academic achievement has a long-term effect on career trajectory and success in life. College students may be tempted to use substances to stay focused and engaged for long hours of studying. Alcohol and drugs are also used to cope with academic failures, such as an inability to complete assignments or performing poorly on a test.

The Use of Study Drugs Among College Students

In individuals with ADHD, prescription stimulants heighten alertness by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.13 Due to the perceived cognitive benefits, some students utilize ADHD medications as study supplements.

Popular prescription stimulants include:

Students between ages 18 to 24 have the highest risk of abusing prescription drugs. A study of 1,811 undergraduates found that 34% of respondents used ADHD stimulants illegally, often during times of high academic stress to reduce fatigue and promote reading comprehension, cognition, and memory.14

While stimulants may help students stay awake for study nights, studies show that they do not effectively enhance performance. Rather than boosting students’ capabilities, stimulants merely give students the perception that they’re doing better.

More often than not, the non-medical use of prescription drugs leads to academic disengagement. Students that partake have lower grade point averages and end up spending less time studying and more time skipping classes.

How Do College Students Obtain Study Drugs?

Regardless of the risks, most students do not view study drugs as dangerous or illegal, even if they do not have a valid prescription. They assume prescription drugs are safe because they are FDA-approved. Prescription stimulants are most commonly obtained by students that have a prescription. A national study of over 10,000 college students found that over half of students with a valid ADHD drug prescription were petitioned by peers and friends.15

How Do Study Drugs Lead to Other Stimulants?

Contrary to popular belief, prescription stimulants are addictive and can lead to substance use disorders (SUDs).Moreover, individuals can build up a tolerance from long-term, continuous use. Increased tolerance levels drive students to take larger amounts, and a significant percentage end up developing drug dependence problems.

In some cases, prescription stimulants act as a gateway drug to more dangerous substances, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Non-medical use of prescription medication is also associated with binge drinking, ecstasy, and marijuana.1

Alcohol Consumption and Binge Drinking In College

The national drinking age is 21, and alcohol is the most widely used substance on college campuses by far. Heavy drinking is considered normal, with a high percentage of students endorsing episodic or binge drinking. A 2002 study found that 31% of college students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD)16

College students are also at higher risk for binge drinking compared to non-college adults. In 2019, 33% of college students reported binge drinking compared to 22% of same-age, non-college adults.17

How Much is Too Much?

A standard drink contains 0.6 fl oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol. To accurately gauge alcohol intake, it is essential to take alcohol content into account. Distilled spirits contain higher concentrations of alcohol (~40%) compared to wine (~12%)  and beer (~5%).10

Moderate drinking limits daily intake to 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women. Types of excessive drinking include heavy drinking and binge drinking.

How Alcohol Abuse Affects College Students

How To Prevent
Excessive Drinking

Monitor Alcohol Intake

The best way to prevent excessive drinking, particularly binge drinking, is to set limits and track the number of drinks consumed. Awareness of how much is too much and drawing a distinctive line combats excessive drinking.

Environmental Change

Another effective strategy is to avoid environments that facilitate alcohol consumption, such as bars, clubs, and fraternity parties. Staying away from places where alcohol is readily available is the best way to avoid drinking altogether. Students living in substance-free housing have lower rates of alcohol and drug use.

Alternative Strategies

Active party scenes are one source of excessive drinking. Students who use drinking as a means to cope are more likely to drink excessively, so finding other methods for dealing with emotional turmoil can prevent excessive consumption.

Support Regulation

According to the CDC, there is less binge drinking in states with stronger alcohol policies and regulations. Supporting preventative measures is a small but easy way for people to help prevent excessive drinking on a larger scale.18

Immediate Consequences of Drinking

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Even small amounts of alcohol can directly impair brain function judgment, reasoning, and muscle coordination.19 Students who drive while intoxicated put themselves, their passengers, and other drivers at enormous risk. In 2005, 1,357 out of 1,825 alcohol-related deaths among college students were due to drinking and driving.20

According to NIAAA, an estimated 1,519 college students ages 18-24 die every year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, which include motor vehicle crashes.21Students who binge drink are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than students who do not binge drink.

Rape and Dating Violence

Excessive drinking proves dangerous for perpetrators and victims alike. Intoxication clouds judgment and loosens inhibitions while also creating vulnerability. Women who engage in heavy alcohol use are at greater risk for sexual assault, most of which involve incapacitation from drug use.22

Moreover, heavy episodic drinking is the strongest predictor of all forms of rape.22 A study on college sexual aggression found that 68% of female victims said their male assailants had been drinking when they were attacked.23 NIAAA estimates that every year 97,000 students ages 18–24 experience alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Students who binge drink are also more likely to have unplanned sex, and alcohol consumption is a strong indicator of dating violence. Relationships in which either partner drinks are twice as likely to involve dating violence.24

Alcohol Poisoning

Binge drinking is a high-risk behavior with immediate, short-term health risks. The body struggles to process high amounts of alcohol consumed in a short period, leading to toxic Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels. As a result, critical areas of the brain can shut down, including those that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. Alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal. Every day an average of six people in the U.S. die from alcohol poisoning.18

Other Popular Substances Used By College Students

What are Party Drugs?

Party drugs typically refer to recreational substances offered at parties to enhance pleasure. Also known as club drugs, these psychoactive drugs cause changes in mood, awareness, and behavior through the central nervous system. Sexual predators use certain types of party drugs called date rape drugs to make targets more susceptible to sexual assault and rape.25

There are three types of party drugs:

  • Depressants (i.e. GHB) slow the nervous system, decreasing reaction time.

  • Stimulants (i.e. cocaine, amphetamines, meth) create excitable feelings associated with arousal and being unafraid.

  • Hallucinogens (i.e. ecstasy, acid) impact judgment and inhibit control.

The Consequences of Using Party Drugs

Many party drugs are illegal and unregulated. Consumers are often unaware of a drug’s strength or contents, making consumption especially dangerous. Party drug use is also strongly associated with a lack of judgment and risk-taking behavior. Many are highly addictive, leading to lifelong struggles with substance abuse.26

Party drugs can be especially potent when combined with alcohol, resulting in severe health complications or even death.

Marijuana and Vaping

“Many young people may view vaping and cannabis use as ‘safer’, but the reality is that nicotine is highly addictive, and cannabis can also be addictive, particularly in younger adults for whom the brain is still developing.”

—Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Despite being illegal on college campuses, rates of marijuana use have increased dramatically in the past decade. Marijuana is the second most used substance on college campuses after alcohol. Among young people in particular, vaping and other electronic drug delivery systems for cannabis and nicotine have also risen in popularity.


Opioids are drugs typically prescribed by doctors for pain relief. However, the additional euphoric effects make them enticing for recreational purposes. Even when used correctly, opioid use can lead to dependence, addiction, and overdose. 27

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, the nation is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, though usage rates among college students have declined. 28

Common opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, and heroin. In 2019, over 70% of drug overdose deaths involved opioids.29

Diet Pills

Appetite suppressants, laxatives, and diuretics are particularly popular amongst college athletes seeking to maintain specific weights. A high percentage of female gymnasts utilize extreme weight loss methods, and nearly 11% of female athletes use non-prescription diet drugs, such as Dexatrim and Acutrim.23

The Impact of Greek Life On Alcohol and Drug Use

Greek involvement is connected to increased participation in binge drinking and non-medical prescription stimulants. Compared to students who are not in the Greek system, fraternity and sorority students consume non-prescription stimulants and pain medications, cannabis, hallucinogens, and other drugs at higher rates. Substance use often declines once students leave the Greek system.1

Accessibility and Culture

Fraternities and sororities commonly use drugs and alcohol during social activities and gatherings. Prevalent party culture and lax view of substance usage lead to higher rates of drug use and abuse.

Drug Sales

In some cases, members of Greek life are deeply entrenched in drug sales. Federal and state investigations of illegal drug distribution have uncovered extensive fraternity operations all over the country.   

In 2020, the University of North Carolina (UNC) chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi funneled over a thousand pounds of marijuana and several kilograms of cocaine into campuses, exceeding 1.5 million dollars in profits.30

“No one is above the law, including college students and fraternity members at elite universities. This serious drug trafficking is destructive and reckless, and many lives have been ruined.”

—U.S. Attorney Matthew Martin

Similarly, a 2008 undercover operation at San Diego State University (SDSU) revealed an organized drug dealing hierarchy at several fraternity houses. Approximately 75 SDSU students were arrested and charged with various drug-related offenses ranging from marijuana possession to cocaine sales.31

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol and Drug Use on College Students

For college students, the consequences of alcohol and drug use can range from poor academic performance to increased injury and death rates. Frequency and degree of use correlate to increased negative consequences. A high percentage of college students who self-report illicit drug use also report at least one negative impact throughout their lifetime and in the past year.32

Health Effects

Extended or frequent drug use can result in numerous long-term health consequences in the body, including heart or lung disease and cancer.33

Though effects differ depending on the type of drug, there is no such thing as a safe amount. Drug dependency and addiction can adversely affect physical and psychological health.

Specific examples of health consequences include that:

  • Frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.
  • Methamphetamine can cause severe dental issues.
  • Inhalants can damage or destroy nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system.
  • Drug use increases the risk of contracting infections.34
Continuous drug use can also result in psychosis, erratic behavior, and a higher risk of mental illness.35 In the U.S., one in four deaths attributed to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit or prescription drug use.36

Educational Effects

Studies show that drug use often correlates with poor academic performance, leading to gaps in enrollment, prolonged graduation times, and even failure to graduate.  

Specific examples of educational consequences include that:

Legal Effects

In addition to possession charges, college students are susceptible to legal consequences for selling and sharing substances. For instance, students with ADHD prescriptions are often solicited even though distributing a Schedule II drug is punishable with five years in prison.15

Employment Effects

College is the time for students to prepare for future career success. Drug use can disrupt such plans by harming performance and motivation factors. Drug-related arrests also stay on record forever and may deter prospective employers. Drug use that continues after graduation can often result in decreased productivity and negatively affect job performance.38

How to Overcome Alcohol or Drug Arrests When Looking for Jobs

Individuals arrested for drug-related offenses often face difficulties in the job market. Potential employers can be distrustful of people with a criminal past and may conduct a background check if states allow. Civil Act of 1964 prevents employers from legally discriminating based on prior arrests, but job prospects may still be hindered. 

Nevertheless, there are ways to push past the stigma and increase the chances of securing a job. Many employers will still hire individuals with an arrest record if they are qualified and do not pose a threat to the business.

Honesty and Integrity

No matter the industry, hiring managers always value employees who are trustworthy and well-intentioned. Job seekers with a criminal background should be forthright and open. Attempts at hiding grievances are likely to backfire. Employers often appreciate prospective employees who acknowledge their mistakes and learn from them.

Honing Skills

Employers look for skilled individuals who bring in-depth knowledge to the table. Taking specialized courses for the relevant field and showing a desire to grow can go a long way in convincing hiring managers to take a chance.

Volunteer Work

Volunteering in the community shows potential employers a reformed outlook. Volunteer work can also demonstrate a desirable work ethic and a willingness to persevere.

Record keeping

Some individuals may feel like they are using substances moderately when in actuality they use a high amount. It is helpful to track intake in a diary, journal, or phone app. Many people are shocked once they have definitive statistics regarding their substance use. Sometimes reduction is as easy as realizing the extent of the problem.


Students prone to excessive drug use can take preventative measures by making themselves accountable. This includes self-accountability and outside support. Friends and family who discourage drug use are an excellent barrier and preventative tool. Students who need additional accountability can ask a friend to look out for them at parties and limit their usage.

Harm Reduction

Abrupt and sudden changes can be difficult for the mind and body to process. In such cases, a harm reduction model can be beneficial over quitting “cold turkey.” With a harm reduction strategy, it is essential to lay out clear guidelines for reducing drug use, including expectations and goals.

Hobbies and Passions

Studies show that substance use often correlates with the amount of leisure time students have. Students are more likely to turn to drugs if they do not fill their free time with fulfilling activities. Participating in hobbies, social clubs, and other passions serves as a protective factor against drug use. College campuses and administrators can help by providing and promoting substance-free activities.

Healthy Living

When substances are used to cope with an unsatisfactory life element, the best approach is to improve those lacking aspects. Addressing the underlying cause of substance use is the best way to prevent it. There are alternative ways to combat and deal with stress, such as yoga and mindfulness techniques.

Professional Guidance

When self-help is not enough, students may wish to seek out external support systems, such as rehab or therapy. Professionals can provide students with valuable insight and tools for reducing substance use and maintaining recovery.

Addiction Treatment for College Students

College students currently attending school may not wish to disrupt their academics with in-patient programs. Fortunately, there are valid alternatives that allow students to address their drug use while continuing their education.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

IOPs establish psychosocial support systems and provide strategies for coping and preventing relapse. For most individuals, they are as effective as in-patient treatment.39 In addition to individual counseling, many IOPs offer group activities and support groups.

Such programs are best suited for patients who:

  • Have already gone through acute stages of withdrawal.
  • Do not require constant monitoring
  • Suffered a mild or moderate addiction and do not require inpatient treatment.
  • Are looking for ongoing support systems.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

PHPs allow patients to live off-site and choose their living accommodations. Such programs are typically utilized by patients who have completed treatment and are transitioning back to a normal routine. Compared to IOPs, PHPs are more intensive and require a greater time investment.

Such programs are best suited for patients who:

  • Have a higher chance of relapsing.
  • Suffered a severe episode of addiction or overdose.
  • Are undergoing withdrawalsymptoms.
  • Need further detoxification services.

On-Campus Relapse Prevention

Many colleges and universities are aware of the struggles faced by college students with drug use and addiction. Student health services often offer integrated support for prevention, treatment, and recovery.

How Schools Help College Students with Addiction Problems

There are more than 130 collegiate recovery programs in the United States, specifically designed to help students in recovery move past their addictions and thrive.

Texas Tech

Students in recovery can seek support from the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CCRC) at Texas Tech University. They offer specialized recovery and academic support to help students continue their personal and professional growth.

University of Texas

University of Texas locations offer a variety of recovery programs and support systems.

  • UT Arlington – The Health Promotion Department, ATOD Intervention Services
  • UT Austin – Center for students in Recovery
  • UT Dallas – Center for Students in Recovery
  • UT El Paso – Collegiate Recovery Program
  • UT Rio Grande Valley – Collegiate Recovery Program
  • UT San Antonio – The Center for Collegiate Recovery
  • UT Tyler – Center for Students in Recovery

West Texas A&M University (WTAMU)

Students at WTAMU can seek support through the Student Counseling Services Center and the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program.

University of New Mexico (UNM)

UNM provides a plethora of support for students in recovery via the Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.

University of Oklahoma

Students at the University of Oklahoma have access to the Comprehensive Alcohol & Other Drug Program alongside on-campus and off-campus recovery services. Students in Recovery (S.I.R.) is an on-campus support group formed by students to help create a safe and sober environment for recovery.

Colorado State University-Pueblo

CSU-Pueblo’s Student Counseling Center provides professional and confidential counseling services.
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  2. Volkow N. Prevention Profiles: Take Five – Dr. Nora Volkow (NIDA). Published online January 19, 2018.
  3. Forrest S. New Mobile App Helps Young Adults Talk With Friends About Risky Drug, Alcohol Use. Published March 3, 2021.
  4. Sutton H. Study finds student drinking habits changed due to COVID‐19. Campus Security Report. 2021;17(10):9. doi:
  5. Cranford J, Eisenberg D, Serras A. Substance use behaviors, mental health problems, and use of mental health services in a probability sample of college students. Addictive Behaviors. 2009;34(2):134-145. doi:
  6. Martin K, Benca-Bachman C, Palmer R. Risk for alcohol use/misuse among entering college students: The role of personality and stress. Addictive Behaviors Reports. 2021;13:100330. doi:
  7. Prevention with purpose: A strategic planning guide for preventing drug misuse among college students. Published online January 2020.
  8. Schulenberg J, Johnston L, O’Malley P, Bachman J, Miech R, Patrick M. Monitoring the future: National survey results on drug use 1975-2019, college students & adults ages 19-60. Published online 2020.
  9. Dick S, Vasiliou V, Davoren M, et al. A Digital Substance-Use Harm Reduction Intervention for Students in Higher Education (MyUSE): Protocol for Project Development. JMIR Publications. 2020;9(8). doi:10.2196/17829
  10. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College Drinking. Published online January 2021.
  11. Campus Drug Prevention. Substance Misuse and Eating Disorders.
  12. Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. NCJRS; 2003.
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts. Published online June 2018.
  14. DeSantis A, Webb E, Noar S. Illicit Use of Prescription ADHD Medications on a College Campus: A Multimethodological Approach. Journal of American College Health. 2010;57(3):315-324. doi:10.3200/JACH.57.3.315-324
  15. Aberg S. “Study Drug” Abuse by College Students: What You Need to Know. National Center for Health Research.
  16. Knight J, Wechsler H, Kuo M, Seibring M, Weitzman E, Schuckit M. Alcohol abuse and dependence among U.S. college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 2015;63(3):263-270. doi:10.15288/jsa.2002.63.263
  17. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Vaping, marijuana use in 2019 rose in college-age adults. Published September 15, 2020.
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. Published January 2015.
  19. NHTSA. Drunk Driving.
  20. U.S. Department of Education’s, Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention. What Science Tells Us About Impaired Driving Behavior And Consequences Among U.S. College Students. Catalyst. 2011;12(1).
  21. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Published online March 2021.
  22. Krebs C, Lindquist C, Warner T. The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 2007.
  23. The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention. College Athletes and Alcohol and Other Drug Use.; 2008.
  24. Neavins T, Murphy C, Yiaslas T, Demorest M. Daily and situational reports of substance use and dating violence among college students: A 10-week prospective study. Addictive Behaviors Reports. 2020;12. doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100309
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  30. Department of Justice. DEA Investigation in Chapel Hill Area Uncovers Large-Scale Drug Ring.; 2020.
  31. Undercover Operation Targets SDSU Campus; 96 Arrested on Drug-Related Charges.; 2008.
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Cari Renfro

Administrative Director

Cari has worn a variety of hats before coming to Stages of Recovery – in a past life, she was in advertising sales, association management, corporate event planning and property management. Hailing from West Texas, Cari grew up in Midland before attending Texas Tech University. Always creative and an over-achiever, she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Advertising before moving to Florida for the next seven years. A true Texan at heart, Cari returned to the Lone Star State and pursued a career in property management where she earned national designations in leasing, apartment management and obtained her real estate license. In 2015, she met Stages of Recovery owner Stephen Medley by chance. Recognizing her style and resourcefulness, he challenged Cari to head up the renovation of the men’s Transitional Housing properties in Lubbock and Waco (check them out – they look pretty great if we say so ourselves!). Given her knack for organization and execution, the Stages family officially welcomed Cari in 2020 to assist behind the scenes in administration, operations and marketing – she’s here to make us look good! In her spare time, Cari’s pastimes include cooking, interior design and doting on her Scottish Folds – Birdie and Apollo. 

Words to Live by: 

“Why cope when you can eliminate?”

Buddy Bowman


J. E. Buddy Bowman whose journey into the treatment field marks an inspiring second career. Buddy’s passion for recovery is deeply rooted in his personal journey, having experienced both therapeutic community and 12-step recovery since 1984. This profound understanding of the recovery process allows him to approach his counseling with empathy, compassion, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of rehabilitation.

Buddy also comes to us as a “Train the Trainer” in Texas, and has specialized in working with clients involved in the Criminal Justice system. This unique background has earned him a well-deserved reputation as an empathetic and effective counselor.

Buddy finds immense joy in his family, is an avid nature enthusiast and enjoys exploring the breathtaking landscapes of the western United States. One constant companion on his journeys is his beloved dog, Bandit.

Jacob Brown


Jacob graduated with his M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Texas Tech University in May of 2021 and has been working towards his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Texas Tech University. Jacob is currently an LPC-Associate collecting the necessary hours to become an LPC. As a counselor, Jacob operates from a Humanistic perspective, utilizing Existential and Person-Centered techniques. Since beginning his journey in becoming a counselor, Jacob has strived to help people find the meaning in their lives by helping them overcome addiction and embrace a life of recovery. 

Tony Dulaney

Transitional Housing, Men’s

Check back soon to learn more about Tony!

I'm Awesome!

Stay Tuned

Check back soon to meet our team!

Matthew Vasquez, LCDC-I

Therapist Lubbock

Matt obtained his bachelor’s degree in Addiction Counseling in 2017 and his master’s in 2020 in the same area of study. In 2020 Stages of Recovery welcomed him as an intern which quickly turned into a part-time then full-time position, assisting with groups and transitional housing at the men’s properties in Lubbock. Matt began his journey in counseling because he wanted to help people struggling with the disease of addiction, by being a role model and helping them realize the potential they have in recovery.   

Seeing people succeed in recovery and change their lives for the better fuels Matt to continually offer support and leadership to the recovery community here at Stages. 

“I have experienced the joy and peace that comes with sobriety and want to share that and show others that there is a way out of the darkness that is addiction.” 

Favorite quotes: 

“Pain is certain, Suffering is optional.” Gautama Buddha 

“Don’t compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.” Jordan Peterson

Dustin Huckabe

business development

Dustin is in long-term recovery and has been sober since May of 2011. He is from San Antonio, TX and is married to his lovely wife, Emma. They moved to Lubbock, TX where Dustin attended The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech University. Upon Emma’s graduation from Texas Tech in May of 2018, they relocated to Moore, OK, where Dustin graduated in 2020 with his bachelor’s degree in Social Work and recently achieved his master’s degree in Social Work from The University of Oklahoma. Dustin is also the recipient of the National Collegiate Recovery Student of the year award in 2019 for his tireless work building a recovery space on campus for students. Dustin was also the BSW student of the year in 2019 as well as a two-time recipient of the Anne and Henry Zarrow Social Justice Award for 2020-2021. Dustin has sat on numerous boards of directors in the Oklahoma community. His passion, education and ability to help others gain a life of purpose and meaning are just a few reasons why we are excited to have him on our team! 

Mechie Scherpereel

business development

Mechie went through Stages of Recovery 10 years ago with the dream of one day obtaining a degree and providing for his daughter. He had his daughter at five months sober and started working as a janitor at Texas Tech University in 2011. After discharging from Stages of Recovery, Mechie received a scholarship at Texas Tech and The Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery. Not only did he receive his Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech, he pursued his Masters in 2014. Mechie has committed his life to helping others and lives by the motto that he doesn’t care about their feelings, he cares about their lives. His humble roots, passion to help others, and commitment to being his best self is what we at Stages of Recovery embody! We are ready to make shock waves in recovery with this guy!

Tommy Willis

Group Facilitator

Tommy was raised in Tulia, Texas and is married to his first love, Rosalind. They are volunteers for the state of Texas’ program called “Twogether in Texas”, where engaged couples undergo an eight hour workshop. They dedicate their time as a couple to marriage ministry and outreach in the community. Together they have six children and twelve grandchildren. Tommy has been with Stages of Recovery since 2018. He has a Master’s in Addictions Counseling. He is currently in the process of obtaining his LPC Associate and LCDC licenses. Tommy began his recovery in December 2001. He’s driven to give back to the recovery community after seeing so many friends and family who suffered from addiction lose their lives. His journey hasn’t been easy and if he can help the next man, woman, boy or girl choose a different path than he did, it fills his heart with joy.  

Favorite Quote 

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” John Wooden

Ayla Naughton, MSN, APRN

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC)

Check back soon to learn more about Ayla!

Steve Richardson, LMSW, LCDC, CCTS


Steve Richardson is a husband, father, and grandfather. He is also a man in long-term recovery and has a son in recovery as well. Through this journey, few would find it difficult to relate to Steve, making him especially adept at developing relationships with clients and their families. Recovery is so central to his life, that at the age of 52, Steve closed a successful consulting firm and returned to school to become a licensed clinical social worker, as well as a licensed chemical dependency counselor. His education includes a BA in Literature from Texas Tech University, a BS in Psychology at Tarleton State University and a MA in Social Work at the University of Southern California. Along with his extensive education, degrees and training, he brings 50+ years of life experience to every individual, family and group session. Steve believes that no one’s illness should dictate the quality of their future and that their pain and struggle are real. Every addict’s life matters and there is always hope. In other words, no one’s future is carved in stone. His certainly wasn’t. 

Favorite Quote 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein 

Stephanie Franklin, LMFT, LCDC


Stephanie moved from her hometown of San Antonio to Lubbock, TX in 2011 to begin a long journey toward self-growth and healing. She graduated from Texas Tech University with Bachelor degrees in Psychology, and Science in Human Development and Family Studies. After a year of work in the chemical dependency field, Stephanie went on to graduate with a Masters in Couple, Marriage and Family Therapy (with a focus in Addiction in the Family) in 2018. After receiving support from countless loving individuals during her struggle with mental illness, it has been Stephanie’s mission to extend the same level of compassion and care to her clients. She believes counseling is a way for individuals, couples and families to share their experiences and pain, and find ways to transform their darkness into light. Stephanie is especially interested in working with adolescents and adults struggling with addiction and substance abuse, at-risk populations, and couples/families. She works from a systemic perspective with all clients; meaning she gathers information about all areas of an individual’s life to assess needs and the effects that each area may have on the others. Looking through a systemic lens offers the ability for individuals to create lasting transformations through self-awareness about their unmet needs in multiple areas. In her personal life, Stephanie spends most of her time with my husband and their five goofball dogs. She’s a PokemonGo, Disney, and Taylor Swift enthusiast and she enjoys creative outlets including make-up artistry, painting and interior design.

Rommel Hover, BSW, LCDC-I


“Mel” is originally from Angeles City, Philippines. He graduated from Lubbock Christian University with a degree in Social Work. One of the newest clinicians to join Stages in 2020. Mel has over 20 years in Residential inpatient services and is known for his willingness to go above and beyond for others. He is skilled in Mindfulness and serves with a true heart of service. Like many, Mel has had many experiences and challenges in his life that have equipped him to keep pushing forward. These experiences allow him to make deep and meaningful connections with those he helps. When working with clients, he champions the mindset that every human needs three things: TO BE HEARD, TO BE SEEN, AND TO HAVE A SENSE OF PURPOSE. Mel’s motto in life is simply to “Be you” and to not allow anyone or anything to deter you from this. 

Favorite Quote 

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee 

Averie Holder, LCSW

Clinical Director

Averie is a graduate from Texas Tech University with her Bachelors of Social Work in 2018 then in 2020 with her Masters of Social Work. Averie has been working within the area of addiction and recovery since August of 2018 when she started her Bachelor of Social Work field practicum with Stages of Recovery. Averie decided to work with addiction and recovery because of her passion for seeing people better themselves. Averie believes everyone can change, and she shows a clear love for being part of the process and empowering individuals along the way. Averie has been in recovery herself since October of 2017. She has two adorable dogs, Rockie and Chewie. In Averie’s free moments, you can catch her spending time with her partner, watching reality TV, or playing video games. 

“I love to get in the trenches with the people that I work with, fight with them for their change. I believe anyone, no matter what they have been through, has the ability to overcome.” 

Ashley Loveless, LMSW


Ashley Loveless, Licensed Master Social Worker, earned her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Social Work and Spanish from Texas Tech University in 2014. Ashley proceeded to obtain a Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2017. Ashley has been a licensed and practicing LMSW since 2014 and has worked in many private and non-profit sectors including administrative roles, hospice roles, sexual assault counseling, sex-trafficking rescue/counseling, and mental health. She began her career as a Correctional Mental Health Social Worker at Montford State Psychiatric Prison/Hospital in Lubbock, TX in 2014. She has been employed part-time with Stages of Recovery since February 2019 as a Mental Health Counselor, co-leading early recovery groups and taking on individual clients. Ashley works full-time at Hospice of Lubbock as a medical social worker. Ashley and her husband Paul, have four daughters, Sophie, Harper, Sawyer, and Bowen and a dog named Lincoln. Ashley enjoys traveling, yoga, baking, and adventure.  

Lynn Whitfield, LPC


Lynn has been an LPC for nearly eight years. By volunteering at the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, she became interested in addiction and recovery. Her practicum in graduate school included working with veterans and women in recovery through art therapy techniques. Lynn is a member of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors and the West Texas Counseling Association. Along with her Marriage and Family Master’s degree, she holds a Master’s degree in art therapy. Lynn’s unique background allows Stage’s clients to introduce and foster creativity throughout their personal recovery. Lynn is a former classroom teacher, grades 1-8.  She is certified in all-level art and counseling. 

Favorite Quote 

“Imagination rules the world.” Napoleon.

Melissa Silva, LCDC-Intern

Clinical Supervisor, Therapist Lubbock

Melissa currently works as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor-Intern and as the Administrative Director at Stages of Recovery. Along with working at Stages of Recovery, she works with adolescents in the Parent Empowerment Project. She has worked in the recovery field since 2015, with a focus on substance use disorder and helping families heal. She pursued work in addiction because of her academic, professional, and community involvement, as well as her personal experiences. Melissa’s work has allowed her to dive deeper into the field of addiction and recovery and to expose her genuine love for the betterment of other’s lives. Currently, she is a doctoral student at Northcentral University and pursues her degree as a Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy. Melissa received her bachelor’s degree in Community, Family, and Addiction Sciences at Texas Tech University and her master’s degree in Couple, Marriage, and Family Therapy at Texas Tech Tech. She was a member of The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech University.  

“It takes one person to believe in you.”

Anthony McClain

Chief Client Relations Officer, Transitional Living Operations 

A Pennsylvania native, Anthony left home when he was 21 during an active addiction – he thought he had it all figured out. Anthony moved from Wyoming to Montana to Colorado. His addiction progressed, causing him to neglect priorities like relationships, rent, and job opportunities. Eventually, Anthony found himself homeless and broken spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Anthony researched a treatment center in the Dallas area that was able to fly him down to Texas. He was a client there for 57 days. While at treatment, Anthony heard of The Door Sober Living and the recovery that Lubbock had to offer. Anthony took a greyhound to Lubbock and in 2012, Anthony stayed at The Door for six months before moving out. Without The Door’s accountability and structure, he fell back into addictive behavior for several months. Anthony checked into the Ranch at Dove Tree, where he stayed for 30 days. Upon successful completion, Anthony returned to The Door Sober Living on May 19, 2013. This time, Anthony signed a one-year agreement and expressed great willingness to maintain sobriety. In July 2014, when a previous house manager moved in with his fiancé, Anthony was asked to step up and take on his duties. This then, Anthony has grown into the Client Relations House Manager. His continued dedication to recovery and belief in the Stages of Recovery program as a whole led to an opportunity in 2017 to become the fourth owner of Stages. 

Addiction Treatment Admissions in Waco, Lubbock, TX and Oklahoma city, OK

Stephen “Medley”

CEO and Business Development Director

Stephen “Medley” is the founding owner of Stages of Recovery, Inc. and The Door Sober Living Community. A visionary with a passion to help those in recovery, he saw a need in the community and decided to take matters into his own hands. Medley has over twenty years of recovery time. After getting clean at the age of nineteen, he knows firsthand how to show many of our younger clients that it is still possible to have fun in recovery. Medley graduated from Texas Tech University as a member of the Collegiate Recovery Community at the Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Medley is the leader of the company and an inspiration to all staff members. Medley understands the power of knowing why; why we made poor decisions and the importance of knowing and remembering why we don’t want to make them again.  

“I’m passionate about helping individuals realize and reach their dreams by focusing on their WHY.”  

Stephen O’Dell, CFP®

CFO and Business Development

Stephen O’Dell has been with Stages of Recovery for over 12 years. He has served in many roles as the company has continued to grow. He is currently one of the owners and the CFO. He also does direct business development and admissions for those in need of services. Stephen’s time with Stages began when he was a client learning how to live his new life in Recovery. He began his journey at the young age of 18 with big dreams and goals. Stages of Recovery provided him with the tools, guidance, and community needed to build a life worth living. Stephen later achieved his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Personal Financial Planning in 2016 and 2017 from Texas Tech University, with the help of a scholarship from the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CRC). He went on to get his CFP® Mark (Certified Financial Planner) in 2018. Stephen’s unique personal and his extensive professional experience makes him a great fit to help you and your family navigate the complicated process of finding help for your loved one in need.  

Many people think of Wealth as a monetary value. O’Dell defines Wealth as “The relentless pursuit of a desired lifestyle, and the strategic maintenance of that lifestyle”- Stephen O’Dell. With the help of Stages you and your family can begin to define what your goals are and begin the process of healing together.  

Cole Watts

COO and Program Director

Cole and Medley founded The Door Sober Living Community together. Cole is the details behind the program. As Program Director, he conceived and implemented The Door concept and has written multiple grants for this program and others. He is talented at blending the nature of business practices into the field of social services. Cole was born and raised in Lubbock and has been in recovery for over ten years, proving that you can get clean in the same town you live in. He is a proud graduate of the Lubbock County Drug Court program and advocates that Drug Courts work. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in social work from Texas Tech University. Cole has an inspirational wife, Veronica, and two beautiful children, Eliana and Wyatt. His focus in the company is to make sure that the activities stay true to the spirit of recovery and the mission and vision of the company.  

“I’m passionate about guiding people out of their mental sense of lack and into freedom.”

Stephen “Medley”

CEO and Business Development Director

Stephen “Medley” is the founding owner of Stages of Recovery, Inc. and The Door Sober Living Community. A visionary with a passion to help those in recovery, he saw a need in the community and decided to take matters into his own hands. Medley has over twenty years of recovery time. After getting clean at the age of nineteen, he knows firsthand how to show many of our younger clients that it is still possible to have fun in recovery. Medley graduated from Texas Tech University as a member of the Collegiate Recovery Community at the Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Medley is the leader of the company and an inspiration to all staff members. Medley understands the power of knowing why; why we made poor decisions and the importance of knowing and remembering why we don’t want to make them again.  

“I’m passionate about helping individuals realize and reach their dreams by focusing on their WHY.”