Substance Abuse Group Aims to Help Students

For students in recovery or looking to cut back on their alcohol or drug use, the University of Rhode Island offers a program called, “Alternatives: Reducing Substances in Your Life” on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in order to provide support.

The group, which meets in Room 318 of the Memorial Union, was founded in the fall of 2017 by Kelley Ryan and Catherine Calise. Ryan is the assistant director for the outreach and intervention department on campus, which specializes in substance abuse prevention services. Calise works at the Counseling Center and is a liscenced social worker who also specializes in substance abuse.

“The college environment is not really conducive to healthy recovery or a sober lifestyle,” said Calise. “We thought it was really important that we start developing a supportive system on campus.”

The group is a combination of undergraduate and graduate students. It is a mix of students who are in straight recovery or students who are questioning their substance use and want to cut down. Both Ryan and Calise have seen students making connections with one another, and word of the mouth seems to be helping the group.

“We want students to know how to make safe choices,” said Ryan.

According to the Addiction Center, approximately 31 percent of U.S. college students reported symptoms of alcohol abuse in between 1993 and 2005.

“The majority of students do not have a problem with substance use,” said Ryan. “However, in my line of work, I see from the conduct side, there are a lot of students who struggle trying to navigate academics, social life, school, family issues and substance use. A lot of alcohol in college is seen as normal, but I know a lot of students who are actually struggling with it and are trying to balance that.”

The group is open to all and has no set of requirements needed to join. Students can choose to come once, every week or every few weeks. The group is also confidential so students do not have to worry about getting in trouble for what they say.

“The only things that are not confidential are the basic things such as if you plan on hurting yourself or someone else,” said Calise.

Although there are only a few meetings left in the semester, the group will be back for the fall semester.  Calise and Ryan hope to someday have the group run through the summer, but right now the group is too small and there are not enough resources to do so.  

Ryan said it is important to keep an open mind about the issue, and people should not hesitate to reach out.

“Usually I tell people to come at it in the most non judgemental way as possible in stating what their concerns are,” said Ryan. “Also referring people to myself or Catherine is a great way to help and I want to emphasize that no-one will get in trouble.”