What Are Sober High Schools & Are They Working?

With only a handful of sober schools across the nation, the general public has little to no knowledge of sober schools. This week’s author highlights the functions and efficacy of sober schools. -MWM


The journey from addiction to sobriety isn’t a straight line. In fact, every person’s path will curve in unique ways, representative of the multitude of different recovery resources that can be any person’s catalyst toward lasting sobriety. Of course, many of us associate addiction treatment programs with recovery, particularly when the individual is taking the first steps to sobriety; however, many individuals have achieved success in recovery without stepping foot in a clinical rehabilitation facility. Today, there are more and more alternatives to the traditional clinical model of recovery, and these new alternatives are largely a reflection of how the face of addiction has evolved over the decades.

If you look at recent statistics, you’ll see that one of the demographic groups that at extremely high risk of addiction is adolescents, teens, and young adults. For this reason, there’s been a surge of research and development when it comes to recovery solutions that target youths who are either at risk of addiction or developing substance abuse problems. One such solution is a recovery school, also known as a sober school.

What exactly is a “sober school”?

Over the years, youths have proven to be one of the most concerning demographic groups when it comes to risk for alcohol and drug problems. While it may seem like overbearing parental concern is to blame for making teens a risk group, statistics have actually shown that more and more teens have been abusing alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, and a number of other substances over time. As a result, there’s been a push for more recovery resources that are tailored specifically to youths, which is where sober high schools come into play.

These schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools.”

The most straightforward explanation of a sober school is a school that’s intended specifically for adolescents recovering from substance abuse problems or who are perceived as being at high risk of developing alcohol or drug problems. The idea behind recovery schools is the fact that school and peers are often at the heart of teens’ risk for substance abuse problems. Basically, these schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools where studies have shown there has been increasing rates of substance abuse; this separation essentially minimizes the recovering students’ risk of relapse. And not only do recovery schools provide separation from mainstream public schools but they also incorporate a focus on sobriety and physical health as a major part of the curriculum. There’s a focus on mental health as well as helping the students to find ways to mitigate stress and anxiety that would otherwise put them at risk of relapsing and developing other substance abuse problems.

Does it work?

According to studies that have analyzed the efficacy of sober schools, they have been extremely effective at safeguarding students’ recoveries and helping students avoid alcohol and drugs. In effect, the goal of the recovery school is to replace risk factors with so-called protective factors. Moreover, these schools want to help students who have experienced substance abuse problems to establish firm footing in recovery since the absence of mind-altering substances, which alter mood and cognition, will result in many students needing to adjust to how they experience their environments and the world around them.

As to the specific parameters of recovery schools, they’ve largely be determined according to the factors that have been identified as leading to recidivism among teens with histories of substance abuse. For instance, the highest risk has been associated with students who don’t participate in productive academic activities, return to environments previously associated with alcohol and drug abuse, fail to maintain or establish contact with students who don’t abuse mind-altering substances, aren’t involved or have strong relationships with family members, and have little interest in attending or joining support groups. In short, the main goals of a recovery school is to mitigate these factors, encouraging involvement in productive pastimes, familial involvement, relationship-building with non-using peers, and so on.

Students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.”

One of the main concerns that people have regarding recovery schools hinges on the misunderstanding that the recovery focus comes at a sacrifice of traditional academic subjects, but that’s not the case. Students at recovery schools still take the essential academic classes, including mathematics, history, English, natural and applied sciences, and so on; however, the chief difference is that there’s a strong recovery support system built into the curriculum, ensuring that students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.

Considering the results of recent studies, we can conclude that recovery schools are an extremely effective means of reinforcing sobriety among teens with histories of substance abuse. Per the study cited above, the rate at which students enrolling in recovery schools met the diagnostic criteria for addiction was 90 percent; however, after a year of being in a recovery school, that figure dropped to an astounding 7 percent, showing that real results are being achieved with recovery schools. Currently, it’s estimated that there are 33 sober high schools in the United States, but considering the success that students attending these schools have experienced, we will likely be seeing more recovery-oriented high schools opening in the immediate future.


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About the Author: 

Luke Pool is a grateful member of the Recovery community. He has found his purpose in life by helping those who suffer from the diseases of addiction. He uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about this epidemic, affecting every part of this country. Now working for Stodzy internet marketing, he is able to pursue his passion by informing as many people as possible about addiction. Originally from Austin, Texas he now lives in South Florida.






Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

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