View All Episodes

Will There Be Food

Podcast Episode 1

Addiction and Recovery on College Campuses

You might be dedicating campus resources to alcohol prevention efforts, but are you putting any effort toward supporting students in recovery from addiction? We spoke with Tim Rabolt and Tara Strong to learn more about how institutions can be supportive of these students.

Meet the guests
Tim Rabolt
Association of Recovery in Higher Education
Executive Director
Tara Strong
Manchester Community College
Adjunct Faculty (Human Services), BHWET Grant Recruiter and Site Supervisor
Have A Listen

Transcript

Meg Sunga:                  Hey y’all, it’s Meg Sunga and welcome to Will There Be Food?, the student affairs podcast, that, like your job is so much more than free pizza. Every week we get to explore a new topic in higher ed with humans in the industry. When I think of different alcohol education events I’ve encountered, my mind usually goes to programs like drunk simulation goggles on a golf cart or mocktails and skittles to warn students about roofies. Oh, and always a few campus partners from health and wellness or campus police hanging out to answer questions. Drugs, on the other hand, were something I dealt with mostly in the conduct way; almost always involving marijuana and a deeply, deeply apologetic first-year student. When it comes to alcohol and drugs, schools focus mostly on preventative educational programming, but what about the students coming to campus already dealing with addiction? Today we are going to be talking with two student affairs professionals about what institutions can do — and are doing — to support students who are in recovery programs. Our first guest is Tim Rabolt, the Executive Director at the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. At ARHE, Tim works with institutions across the country to support students in recovery from addiction through collegiate recovery programs or CRPs. Hey Tim, thanks so much for joining us on today’s show.

Tim Rabolt:                   Hi Meg. Glad to be here. Thanks so much for putting this all together.

Meg Sunga:                  Absolutely. Now, Tim, you have worked in student affairs; you have that student affairs background, correct?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, so I haven’t been full-time at an institution. I studied higher ed administration in grad school and worked as a grad assistant in a couple areas of student affairs, but mostly I work with student affairs practitioners from around the country. So kind of channeling their wisdom in a lot of the work that we do.

Meg Sunga:                  Awesome. Very cool. I guess to really kick off all of this, Tim, um, in student affairs, we talk a lot about alcohol and drug prevention, but very little about students currently in recovery from addiction. Why is this an issue that might not be getting as much attention?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, so what the limited kind of research that we do have…Dr. Alexandre Laudet kinda did this national study back in 2015 that surveyed a few dozen collegiate recovery programs and around 500 students total, and looked at all sorts of aspects of their life. And I think some of the most unique findings and you know, critical findings in that survey were around the different student success metrics. So you had students who had higher GPAs, higher four-year retention rates, higher graduation rates, compared to the average student at their school. I think once recovery kind of clicks for an individual, you know, there’s all these kinds of different aspects of being in recovery and it’s different for every individual. But when it kind of boils down to a lot is having this renewed sense of purpose. You know, a lot of students when they’re battling addiction and things get tough and they’re down, they kind of lose that sense of like, belonging and purpose and everything, and then to find that all of a sudden you’re unlocking this level of motivation and pursuit of life that you just don’t see in the average individuals. So these students in recovery, you know, we’re sitting up front in class, like we’re asking questions, we’re getting involved, we’re taking leadership roles, we’re getting very involved and being proactive in group projects. Different things like that. So I think that’s the reason I would say that the students in recovery have those higher student success metrics because they have this kind of tenacity about life now. And so they’re not necessarily any smarter than the average student, but there’s something about, you know, being in recovery and having that community of other individuals in recovery that’s going to push them to do better and to really give it their all.

Meg Sunga:                  So Tim, what do you think is stopping higher ed from supporting these students?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, so it’s a great question. I think it’s a complicated, layered answer. Um, you know, I do think higher ed is progressive, but I wouldn’t exactly describe it as proactive. So it’s a bit difficult when institutions are so large and you know, dealing with their kind of bureaucratic nature to, you know, get things moving when, you know, something kind of pops up. So when there’s an emerging area of concern or a new issue, um, it might get talked about a lot, but not really addressed until it’s kind of at a critical point. So we’ve seen this with a lot of other marginalized identities, I think on campus, like with LGBTQ students or international students, first-generation students, et cetera. So I think there’s that piece to it. There’s also this kind of like a large cloud around addiction and recovery. You know, I have the benefit of working in the space, so I don’t see it as much, but when it kind of comes down to it, it’s just really uncomfortable for a lot of people who talk about addiction and recovery because it’s, it’s so new and there’s a lot of things that we still don’t know. And so whether someone’s in recovery or not, for the vast majority of people, it’s just an uncomfortable topic, unfortunately. Because if it wasn’t, we’d see a lot more people getting help. And then finally I think that administrations don’t know what they’re missing out on. And I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but if I became a high-level student affairs administrator tomorrow, I would be heavily recruiting students in recovery and setting up a strong collegiate recovery program just because of how successful students in recovery are. You know, like student success isn’t just a buzzword. The data we have on students in recovery show that their student success metrics are, you know, incredibly higher than the average student at a school. So we’ll get into that, I know, a little bit later. But I think there’s just a lot of layers to it and a lot of it’s just not knowing what they don’t know.

Meg Sunga:                  What do college students dealing with addictions kind of look like on a national scale?

Tim Rabolt:                   The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is put out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) just came out earlier this week and it seems like everything but marijuana is down for the 18 to 25 age range. But it doesn’t really tell us too much around addiction and recovery in college students specifically. But as far as what, you know, a student battling addiction might kind of look like in a case-by-case scenario, you don’t generally see a student coming into school that’s, that’s been battling addiction in high school, but at the same time, it’s not particularly rare. So that was the case, you know, for me personally. I got into recovery in high school and was battling addiction throughout, you know, junior and senior year. But a lot of students when faced with all sorts of new opportunities and stresses and different kind of factors in college and they kind of end up battling addiction throughout their time. A lot of times we’re only seeing the external consequences where a student is, you know, their grades are suffering and they’re not very involved and you know, they might have some trouble with friends and family and there might be, you know, other poor decisions involved. You know, on-campus or off-campus and you know, whatever kind of facets of life. But then all the internal kind of consequences, too, as far as like self-esteem and you know, the anxiety and depression that kind of comes with it. So it, it looks really different for each student, but that’s hopefully some of the, um, you know, kind of bigger picture in case-by-case examples of, of what it might look like for a particular student that’s battling addiction.

Meg Sunga:                  Tim, what are common myths and misconceptions about addiction in college students?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, so there’s a lot that we hear and a lot that I think are perpetuated through stigma and also that you see kind of portrayed in the media in different aspects of pop culture in, in life. You know, you see things like “it’s their choice.” Uh, you know, “these individuals have low ambition.” “Those students aren’t on my campus.” “It’s a phase or they’re just craving attention.” Um, “they’re a lost cause,” stuff like that. And it’s all really inaccurate and ignorant and, you know, kind of offensive as well. Like I said earlier, if someone’s surrounding themselves with students in recovery, especially in these collegiate recovery programs, you really be amazed at how involved they are and how engaged and you know, service is generally a really big kind of component of someone’s life who’s, who’s in recovery. And you know, like I said, I think if every top administrator knew what we knew, you’d really see some of these programs just being developed on almost every college campus.

Meg Sunga:                  So I’m actually curious, um, are there any particular institutions out there right now that stand out to you that are doing really great work?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, especially on the, on the recovery side. I think what we’ve seen happen at schools like Kennesaw State University down in Kennesaw, Georgia; they’ve really embraced the full continuum and have lifted recovery up to really feel like it’s a part of their culture on campus, which I think is like the number one thing to push for, you know. It’s great to have staff and have funding and have scholarships and have housing accommodations and meetings and this community. But when you’re really investing in it, in the culture of the university, it’s transformative and really goes a very long way. So yeah, there’s, you know, you can go on and on, you could do a whole podcast just on the best practices around what some of these schools have.

Meg Sunga:                  What does life look like for a student in recovery when they don’t have support, versus good support?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s tough. I can kind of get my own experience here as well because though I entered school back in 2011 in early recovery, I didn’t have that support yet and for me at least there was a lot more of those internal consequences. So a lot of those feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy and you know, I think a lot of institutions deal with the fact that students who are leaving are generally doing so because they don’t have that sense of community. And schools will try and invest quite a bit in making sure that’s available to students. You know, no matter what their background is that they feel a part of the campus experience and are having, you know, an ideal student experience in their own right. So I think you see that a lot. You see them battling to keep up with classes and all these different engagements that happen as far as internships or working part-time or being involved with student organizations because it’s just, it’s tough to navigate your own recovery and it, I mean, it’s tough to navigate college in general. So you’ll see a lot of times students leaving the school and maybe not returning to college at all because they felt like they had to decide between their recovery and a college degree, and that’s not right. They should be able to pursue both and receive the same kind of unique accommodations and support that, you know, other student populations receiving or other students with, you know, certain medical conditions are receiving. So, yeah, it’s, it’s tough. Kind of in a nutshell, what it looks like to your question, is really a battle that they shouldn’t be having a fight alone.

Meg Sunga:                  Tim, what can an institution do to be truly great at supporting students in recovery?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah, so it definitely depends on the type of school because certain things just won’t apply depending on the campus. But in general, you know, dedicated space on campus solely for students in recovery and you know, their program or their student organization, whatever, it kind of starts out as…campuses just naturally aren’t set up to support recovery. So that space is key because, you know, students in early recovery are battling the temptation to use or drink everywhere you go, even at the library or in the student center, things like that. So yeah, that’s one piece. Um, you know, funding a full-time staff member or whatever they can to work with students and support students who are in recovery as well as grow that, that program. Build the community as a third piece to, you know, show the dedication towards growing the amount of students who are in recovery and involved because it’s gonna take time. It’s not going to be something that you just solve overnight. Um, a fourth piece being that housing accommodation piece that we talked about earlier that every student’s needs are going to be different. So really, you know, being open to those accommodations and then that recovery culture aspect that we, that we talked about really, you know, taking it seriously at the foundation level of the university and you know, wanting to make recovery a part of the, the campus culture I think is, is the last piece, I would say.

Meg Sunga:                  Tim, for any SApro who wants to put effort into supporting students with addiction and in recovery, what high-quality resources exist out there?

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah. So the, the very best resources are the people, like the staff that are doing this work. So, whether it’s checking with your institution or your neighboring institution or your peer institution or you know, contacting us (ARHE) directly, we are always happy to help. And that’s the great thing about this space is that, you know, the individuals are so willing to freely give their time and experience as far as what it was like to build their program and where they’re at. So that’s one piece. We’re obviously really small, as far as our association; we’re young. But you know, we’re able to make a lot of those connections and do even more for our, our members, um, the members of our association so people can learn more at CollegiateRecovery.org and you know, get involved with us. There’s a good bit of research out there that touching on so people can look up the Recovery Research Institute or the Journal of Recovery Science. There’s a lot of researchers that have done quite a bit with collegiate recovery that we mentioned. Alexandre Laudet. And there’s also Anne Thompson Heller and Kitty Harris, Tom Kimbo, Austin Brown, lots of great assets there. And then a lot of folks find quite a bit of support at our events. So we have our, the National Collegiate Recovery Conference that we just had in Boston at Boston University, and our next one will be June 23rd to the 27th in San Diego. And then we have a new summit; a summit just for staff members who are either working in collegiate recovery or hoping to work in collegiate recovery. So that’s coming up November 5th and 6th at UC Santa Barbara and we’re about to launch that, too. And then, you know, folks can always email me directly and I’m happy to help or answer any additional questions as they, as they pop up. But yeah, lots of great resources out there to learn more and you know, push this whole thing forward to best support students.

Meg Sunga:                  I love it. Thank you so much, Tim, for joining us today. You are doing great work and keep up the great work for sure.

Tim Rabolt:                   Yeah. Thank you so much. Glad to be a part of it and exciting that you know, you’re able to put this podcast together and you know, highlight so many different areas of student affairs that need more attention.

Meg Sunga:                  Our next guest is Tara Strong, an adjunct professor and a behavioral health workforce education and training recruiter and Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Tara, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Tara Strong:                  Thank you so much for having me.

Meg Sunga:                  Yeah. Tara, I want to start off with, first off, how did you get to where you are as far as like working with students in recovery in your position?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah, so I’ve been in higher education for about 10 years now and my bachelor’s degree is in psychology. Um, and I decided to switch over, um, to the higher ed field for my master’s degree. So my master’s is in higher education and my whole entire career has really blended the two worlds. I really have found joy in working with marginalized or vulnerable populations and helping them to matriculate into higher ed. I really think that higher education is the best place for social capital mobility and it can really help students propel into better life circumstances. So my whole career has centered around that.

Meg Sunga:                  So we’re talking about substance abuse and addiction on campus. What does that look like at Manchester?

Tara Strong:                  So, New Hampshire overall, we’re experiencing the brunt of an opioid epidemic as much of our country is. We are experiencing the opioid epidemic at really high volumes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse in March released a report that really revealed that New Hampshire is among the top five states with the highest rate of opioid-involved deaths. Most people wouldn’t assume that; they think mountains, they think lakes, they think safety and while much of New Hampshire has that, we are experiencing a population that’s really struggling with the opioid epidemic and fentanyl. The distribution of fentanyl is at an all-time high. And so we do deal with students who are misusing substances on campus. Being an open enrollment institution, we see students who are all over the spectrum. When it comes to substance misuse, addiction, and being in active recovery as well.

Meg Sunga:                  With your students coming in, is there an age range? Is there a typical type of student that is facing this or is this kind of an issue from almost everybody?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah, that’s a really good question. So my position, I actually teach in the Human Services Department and I work in the Human Services Department. So I believe that students experiencing substance misuse issues or being in active recovery…I think that our whole population at the college deals with this. But we in the human services program see this issue at a higher level just because of the content in our programs. So we have four certificates in our program that I recruit for, and two of them have to do with substance misuse. One is a substance misuse prevention worker and the other is a recovery support worker. So as you can imagine, students who are in the community, when they want to go back to school, we’re generating interest from the recovery community. People who are in active recovery and want to help others. So this kind of was a surprise population for us as I was recruiting for these programs. I didn’t really know that I would see such a large population of students revealing to me that they were in active recovery. So this was a surprise discovery for us in terms of the population and our human services program.

Meg Sunga:                  Clarifying question: So, you’re actively recruiting students in recovery?

Tara Strong:                  I run a grant that’s called the Behavioral Health Workforce and Education Training Grant. So this grant was put out by the federal government and they are actually supplying the college with the funds to fund a student in their first semester if they’re enrolled in one of our human services programs.

Meg Sunga:                  Gotcha. What are the different components for the program that your students have to complete?

Tara Strong:                  Typically, when I have run grants in the past, the qualifications seem to be like you have to jump through hoops to get the money. And with this grant it’s really simple and straightforward. You just have to be a US citizen. You have to be interested in human services fields and you have to matriculate in one of our certificate programs. So students will go through that with me. The neat thing about my role is that I kind of act as an admissions counselor and I follow them through until completion. And I also run a weekly support hour for students who are grantees and that support our really looks like everyone bringing their lunch to the table and I’m talking about anything that they need support in. Most of the time, I keep it to academics but if it gets to a place where students are struggling in another area then that’s where referrals come in handy. So a lot of peer to peer interaction, so students talking to each other about assignments and peer-reviewing. And then I’ll go around and help with any course content because I know the content pretty well from being in the department.

Meg Sunga:                  Well, it sounds like the peer support and the fact that you are so hands-on with them, I think that’s a vital component into their success through this program and honestly through their time at Manchester. I think that’s really great that you have that ability to do that.

Tara Strong:                  Yeah, it’s really, it’s really cool and I think the fact that we’ve designed the program to be super supportive to any student. The students who are in active recovery, falling under that model, has really just supported them without siloing them, if that makes sense. Oftentimes I think in higher ed we love to make programs for special groups and sometimes it’s great, um, but sometimes it really…sometimes people don’t want to wear that identity their whole time at college. So it’s really great that this program is comprehensive and can serve many populations.

Meg Sunga:                  Absolutely. Tara. Wow. What challenges do you think students in active recovery are facing when trying to enroll or trying to attend, you know, college either at your institution or really just anywhere?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah. We’re really trying hard to figure that out in a more empirical data kind of way. Because we’ve just recently uncovered through the statistical data that I’ve been collecting just on the students; we’re really just figuring out that over half of the students that we’re serving in our cohort are actually struggling with substance misuse issues. So for our next step to this, we’ll be trying to work with the recovery community, which I have connections with, because I help students get into internship sites. But really doing a focus group or serving people in recovery programs to really ask them “what are the essential elements that you believe you need in place to be successful in college?” So that’s our next step to figure the answer to this question out because we’ve witnessed things but we really want to collect the data on it. A couple of challenges that we’ve faced over the past two years and in interacting with students; recent sobriety can be really tough for individuals who have been in recovery programs. We have a recommendation to come into our program that students have two years of sobriety under their belt, but it’s just a recommendation. So a student who comes into our program doesn’t have to have the two years of sobriety under their belt. So sometimes we’re having students who are very recent in their sobriety matriculate or start taking classes and that really poses a retention risk just because of recent sobriety. It really, it can be challenging to add a full course load on your plate when you’re trying to get to the root of what caused the addiction issue. Another thing that we’re seeing is that sometimes in the courses, students are being triggered by the content.

Meg Sunga:                  Ah, yes.

Tara Strong:                  Yeah. In our human service program, it’s a very interpersonal, it’s very soul-searching and I don’t know if students come in knowing that it’s going to open up old wounds. But we’re seeing that and that’s a challenge that we’re trying to work with recovery programs, as they’re referring students to us to try to help them talk to the students before they send them to the community college to make sure that they’ve done the work. That they have a plan to do that type of work.

Meg Sunga:                  Sure, yeah. There’s all that, you know, it’s the trauma that they have yet to unpack and to try to navigate that on top of, you know, being a new environment, being in school, all of these new people and new expectations. I can only imagine how difficult that can be.

Tara Strong:                  Absolutely. And what happens, you know, someone’s triggered in the classroom, it really can provoke them to go back to their comfort, which for some individuals was the substance that they’re trying to get away from, so it really can create this shame and guilt cycle, which really isn’t good. So we are trying our best to have that information conveyed early on so they can do the work and be successful.

Meg Sunga:                  Sure. So we’ve talked to a really awesome individual who’s working at the Association of Recovery in Higher Ed and he was saying that he sees the students that he’s worked with at different campuses – especially the ones recovering and dealing with addiction — that they’re the most passionate. Do you feel like students are bringing that same kind of energy?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah, I just hosted our program-specific orientation and we always do an intro where students are going around the room and just the stories; the willingness to share, the transparency, and just the dedication that these students are bringing to the table is inspiring on every level. And I consider it a blessing to be able to work with them. So yes, I would have to agree that there is a tenacity that you don’t see in every student. And you know, what’s even more encouraging is seeing them meet those academic milestones and being able to share them on. It’s, it’s really a beautiful thing.

Meg Sunga:                  Tara, going off of what you mentioned about needing that data to prove that these students absolutely need these services, X, Y, Z — I don’t know why we have to prove things the way we do sometimes if we, it’s just the way it is, we need concrete numbers. How can colleges collect data on students in active recovery or what does that even look like?

Tara Strong:                  I think one day I sat and I just looked at all the students that I was recruiting and each of them had multiple barriers. And oftentimes even with recovery, there’s co-morbidity; recovery and poverty; recovery and mental health issues; recovery and the list can go on and on. Even when you get into disability, there is, you know, mental disability. There is physical and I think defining these terms better, making lists of demographics more comprehensive so students find themselves in the list is something that we all could enhance at our institutions. Even in recovery, I mean, some people will see recovery and they’ll think, “oh, I was in a recovery program two years ago, but I don’t consider myself in recovery” so they have their own blank set of language. So I developed my own tool, which has been fully encompassing of many challenges so that students can anonymously identify and that’s how we’re keeping records. So, hopefully, this can be something that can be implemented on a more macro level in the future.

Meg Sunga:                  Tara, for those who don’t know — and I think I’m going to backtrack just a little bit to make sure we capture this question — but for those who don’t know, what challenges do substance abuse present to students in active recovery?

Tara Strong:                  I think the challenges… it goes back to, as an institution, or retention issues. As a student, the issues really center around having that additional barrier. And you know, when, when times of stress happen, when more is added to a student’s plate who is in active recovery, there’s always that temptation for the student to return to their comfort, which, which may be a substance. And, it just adds another layer of difficulty for all students. College is difficult, especially finals and midterms. But for our students who are in active recovery it’s just super important to keep a close tab on them and to make sure that they have the supports that they need to be successful.

Meg Sunga:                  For those who want to do the work that you do or to help better support students with addiction on their campuses, where can they even start?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah, I would say go to the people who are experts in this. Every community has a recovery community. Every community has an AA or Al-anon recovery programs. I think networking with program directors, executive directors of these programs, and really educating yourself about the population and about the supports. I think any student affairs professional can do that. And just having those resources in your back pocket can really help in a monumental way.

Meg Sunga:                  So, and I’m just going to clarify — so honestly, your own community services, people that already exist doing the work with humans in the community, those are the best people to reach out to?

Tara Strong:                  Yeah. I mean even asking them, inviting them on campus to talk. I have done that several times and you’d be surprised how willing and excited people from those organizations are to actually come and let students know who they are, what they do. And it, it really can open up opportunities for students who are, you know, wondering if they have issues with addiction but also students who want to volunteer or support at those organizations. So I think that’s always a really good place to start.

Meg Sunga:                  What do you think campuses are getting wrong or what are some misconceptions? What are the myths that are still pervasive when it comes to students with addictions?

Tara Strong:                  The hard thing is I think that, administrators at colleges, unfortunately, some of us are getting older. The drug scene is changing. And honestly, and it’s really difficult working with young people who are experiencing these issues. They tell me “Tara, people don’t know, you know, like adults in the community, they don’t understand drugs now.” And that is really a scary place to hear young people saying that. So I think that we’re still stuck in this idea of the drug world that is outdated and that is tricky and I think we’re getting that wrong. There are things like lean and students drinking cough syrup. There are rappers that talk about lean and mixing codeine and cough syrup and there’s just trends that young people…drugs look a lot different than when we were even in college. And I think we’re not taking enough time to really think about this. And I think a lot of us think “this isn’t necessarily in my functional role.” And colleges aren’t really hiring AOD professionals to come in and study this and it’s taking off.

Meg Sunga:                  Wow.

Tara Strong:                  Am I like freaking you out? You’re like “I don’t want to know this, this is crazy.”

Meg Sunga:                  No! It’s so, it’s funny. So like August obviously is usually the time where a lot of RAs are starting on training. We always have that one session about alcohol and drugs, or even like in Behind Closed Doors types of conversations. And it’s like, I’m thinking about back when I was an RA, it was definitely, you know, marijuana…

Tara Strong:                  …Red Bull and vodka.

Meg Sunga:                  …Four Loko, maybe might have come on. But I do remember like the big thing then was I remember them showing us a video. There’s just funny video of how people were soaking up gummy bears and vodka. And that was like the new big thing. This was obviously a long time ago for anyone listening who is younger than me. But that was the big thing of like, college kids are gonna go, you know, to parties and eat these gummy bears and gonna be great. And now it’s like we have weed gummies and we have…

Tara Strong:                  Yes.

Meg Sunga:                  And we have, you know, pens and we have shatter and different, all kinds of, oh my gosh, what am I thinking of? I can’t even think of it. There’s so many names for it. Molly and E, like all of those things — like I’ve never encountered from my experience either as an undergrad or even as a professional. So I’m just like, I can only imagine all of the different types of things. Students are being inundated with; how they’re finding out about them, and kind of the path that they’re taking on that. Anyway, sorry, my brain is just like blown.

Tara Strong:                  Oh, it’s crazy. And I mean, you’re right. And I think that a lot of institutions are like, “those aren’t our students. Our students don’t, you know, tamper with hardcore stuff.” And I think for the most part that we can assume the general population doesn’t, but you would really be surprised. Different four-year institutions that I’ve been at and I’ve run workshops and students saying, yeah, like “in high school we sprinkled Vicodin, we sprinkled Percocet on our weed, like, we didn’t know that that was a big deal.” And so I don’t want to villainize the students, but I don’t think we can safely assume like they’re only doing weed and they’re only doing, you know, messing with alcohol. Because I think we’d all be surprised at the experimentation, which we know is a part of the youth culture. But we, I think we need to, you know, brush up a little bit. Especially now that legalization as spreading, I mean New Hampshire is between three states that have fully decriminalized and have legalized marijuana in many forms. So we have students bringing marijuana from dispensaries over the border into New Hampshire where it’s not legal. So that’s a lot of the education that we run into as well. Now you have to think about edibles. Students who are used to smoking are now being introduced to edibles that have been prepped at a dispensary. You know, they don’t understand that, you know, one chocolate square is five milligrams and that’s enough to get you high. So we’re dealing with a whole crazy drug and alcohol culture. So I think we need to brush up.

Meg Sunga:                  Yes, absolutely. Shout out to anyone who’s doing work like Tara, the AOD educators out there because it’s always going to be something new. The constant refreshing and getting ready for new information because it’s always changing. I watched Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix show that I love, Patriot Act, and he did a conversation about the opioid epidemic, but specifically opioids then, like a couple of years ago versus now and how strong they are. And again, these are things that I had zero idea about. So actually, a good question for you is how do you even have these open and honest conversations with students? Are they willing to have them?

Tara Strong:                  You know what? They love it and when they know that you’re in the know, it’s crazy what it’s like. It’s almost like they’ve had a break. They’re like, “oh, she knows.” And it’s really interesting because they know things that we don’t, but they also…you’d be surprised at how uneducated they are at some aspects. So when I have open dialogues with students – and this isn’t students in recovery, this is more the general population of students — maybe students who’ve gone through the conduct process and they’re sanctioned to a workshop I do or something like that. When I talk with students, they usually will come into two different workshops and they’re acting a little upset that I have to be there. But then when I start talking to them, you know, to educate them, their eyes really get wide and something we talk about is, is legalization and you know, where are you at in the stance? And we talk about the mass media and the marketing behind it and they really love to engage and they really like to talk about their opinions. And coming, you know, full circle and allowing them to express their opinions in a very safe, nonjudgmental zone. It really can increase the relationship you’ll have with the student, but students aren’t super knowledgeable. But I was having a conversation with students the other day and I was like, “do you know what fentanyl is?” And this was a student who acts super hardcore, super pro-weed and it’s like, “I think”, “okay so tell me what do you think it is?” And he’s like “something really crazy.” And I’m like, yeah it is. But do you know that, you know, hospitals use fentanyl; that is kind of like morphine. Like we produce it here in the US and it has a really good outcome if used properly. You know, so it’s like students, I think that they try to act super in the know, but the more you probe, the more you realize there’s a lot of education that needs to be done,

Meg Sunga:                  That moment when they’re like, wow, this blew my mind. And I’m like, “that just happened to me just now.” But yes, I know that. Look, I know that look and I’m thinking of every single student in my office. It is very satisfying,

Tara Strong:                  I feel. Yeah, I feel like I live for that look. Like when that look happens, I’m like “yes.” And it’s like, there’s some students that take a very long time to get them to get that look, but when they get it you’re like, “Yeah, I did something.”

Meg Sunga:                  I did it. I’m done.

Tara Strong:                  Boom. I’m done for the day. I’m going to Starbucks. I met my quota.

Meg Sunga:                  Yes. Tara, thank you so much for joining me today. I enjoyed a learning all the new things and you were a fantastic guest. Thank you for the work that you do. I appreciate everything.

Tara Strong:                  Thank you so much for having me. I had fun. Let’s do this again.

Meg Sunga:                  Yes, yes. You’ve been listening to Will There Be Food? with me, Meg Sunga. Thanks again to my guests this week: Tim Rabolt, the Executive Director at the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and Tara Strong, adjunct professor and a behavioral health workforce education and training recruiter at Manchester Community College. You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimRabolt and connect with Tara on LinkedIn. You can follow Will There Be Food @HelloPresence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For the episode transcript, show notes, and for the links to the resources that Tim and Tara talked about today, head to presence.io/podcast. Don’t forget to rate us, subscribe, and share with all the friends and let us know what topics you want us to cover next. Will There Be Food is a production of Presence. It’s hosted by me, Meg Sunga. The show is directed, edited, and mixed by our producer, Luke Burton. Our executive producer is Cassandra Corrado. Catch us next week when we’ll be talking about creating a fat-positive campus.

Check I'm Here is now Presence. Learn more about this change in our blog post here.