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Recovery High Schools

Teenage school kids smiling at camera in school corridor  

Substance abuse in high school is a rampant problem, and for teens in recovery, this can pose a risk to hard-earned recovery. Recovery high schools offer a safer alternative to help reduce relapse in teen substance abuse for kids in recovery.

What Are Recovery High Schools?

Recovery high schools began in 1987, and by 2009 there were 31 of them in 10 states. In 2019 there are 44 recovery high schools in the United States. These schools are specifically designed for teens who are in recovery from substance abuse. Recovery schools help prevent relapse in teens and provide additional support for maintaining sobriety and staying on track with recovery.

Teen recovery is a vital part of these sober high schools, and adolescents in these specialized programs have often been through formal treatment for a substance use disorder. Peer support in addiction recovery is an important part of recovery high schools. For teens in recovery, being in a traditional high school can pose major risks for relapse. Availability of substances and continued exposure to people who are still using create a dangerous setting, and recovery high schools help ameliorate that risk.

Recovery high schools offer a dual focus on academics and support for ongoing sobriety. Unlike traditional schools, recovery high schools address relapse-prevention and stress management as integral parts of the curriculum.

Goals of Recovery Schools

The goals of recovery schools are listed as follows by the Association of Recovery Schools to:

  • Educate all available and eligible students who are in recovery from substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Meet state requirements for awarding a secondary school diploma
  • Support students in working a strong program of recovery

In the past, substance abuse treatment for teens was done in a vacuum of sorts. Teens who were in recovery faced an even greater risk for relapse when returning to their usual school settings, where many first accessed substances. There are many factors causing teenage substance abuse. Easy access to substances and the presence of peer pressure to use them are two significant factors. When teens in recovery have the option of a peer recovery community in a supportive educational environment, they have greater odds of staying on track.

Success Rates of Recovery-Based High Schools

Recovery schools have had success in treating teen relapse prevention. The dropout rate for teens in a recovery high school is far lower than for teens returning to their old high school after treatment. This is likely a result of being part of a supportive environment in which their recovery is an integral part of the value system and focus of the programming.

The dual focus of recovery and academics offers teens an advantage over the typical high school setting. Relapse prevention programs for youth are an asset to their recovery, and this is exemplified in recovery high schools.

Recovery High Schools in the U.S.

High school recovery programs offer a valuable educational resource for teens in the sober community. The opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, substance-free environment is crucial, as well as the chance for peer-to-peer recovery, which has shown to improve outcomes. Recovery high schools are on the rise across the nation. To be an accredited recovery high school, participating programs must abide by the guidelines of the Association of Recovery Schools. The ARS website offers a list of accredited high schools by location across the U.S.

Recovery is a challenging process, particularly for teens who are at risk of relapse in a traditional public school setting. Part of the widespread success of recovery high schools is the recognition that teens need additional support in a substance-free educational environment. Maintaining sobriety and living a life of recovery requires commitment and support. Teens who enter recovery high schools after treatment have a greater likelihood of success, lower dropout rates and reduced rates of relapse.

If you have a loved one who is a teen in recovery, exploring a recovery high school is a positive step toward maintaining sobriety and wellness. You and your teen don’t have to face this alone. The trained specialists at Next Generation Village can offer guidance and support as you identify options for a safe educational environment post-recovery. For those who are considering treatment, Next Generation Village offers evidence-based options for your teen’s specific needs. Call today to explore treatment options available to you and seek the treatment your teen deserves.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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