College group works to combat addiction on campus through peer support

Apr 22, 2018

As the opioid epidemic continues across the country, one graduate student is working on the collegiate level to provide a support system to treat opioid and other types of addiction on campus.

Bob Lamb is a graduate student in the Master of Public Health program at Temple University in Philadelphia and founder of the Temple Collegiate Recovery Program, a student group dedicated to fostering a community of peers in recovery. He spoke with us on “Take Care” about his personal and academic journey with addiction and how college programs can be an important part of recovery.

"It's scary to think about because I was in such a dark and lonely place for so long that I really didn't know that there was another way out."

Lamb said his battle with substance abuse began when he was an undergraduate student at University of the Sciences Philadelphia. When two of his close friends died in a short period of time, the resulting addiction impacted his ability to perform in personal relationships and the academic program, so the university sent him to get an evaluation at a substance use center.

This was a large turning point in his life that pointed him toward recovery, Lamb said.

“It’s scary to think about because I was in such a dark and lonely place for so long that I really didn’t know that there was another way out,” Lamb said. “Ultimately, I did get introduced to the services that I was provided that allows me to be grateful for the life I’ve been given as a result of it.”

The program provided Lamb with peer support, outpatient counseling and constant monitoring during his final year as an undergraduate. He said being kept on a “tight leash” is largely to thank for keeping him on track to recover.

“I think just having a lot of resources set in place…that really refocused me and motivated me to maintain that,” Lamb said.

As far as relating his struggle to that of the larger opioid crisis, Lamb said just as he did not anticipate his alcoholism at his first drink, those who get addicted to opioids do not expect the painkillers to have such dangerous effects on them. He said because of this, it is important not to stigmatize addiction.

“Letting other people know that it’s possible regardless of the walk of life you come from, but also that there’s support services out there for you, is the biggest thing,” Lamb said.

After a support network helped Lamb recover, he saw a need for a similar program at his graduate school.

“I had seen at other universities these well-established programs,” Lamb said. “I wanted to start to create that kind of community here at Temple.”

Lamb said his group hopes to bring together students who have gone through similar experiences with addiction so they know they are not alone.

“We just want let other students know that we’re here for them and we can support them in various ways,” Lamb said.

The reception on campus has been in overwhelming support of the resources and community the program creates, Lamb said.

“There’s definitely been a lot of university and administrative-level acceptance,” Lamb said. “They see this as definitely an asset to the university and something that can definitely be beneficial to the student body.”

"We just want let other students know that we're here for them and we can support them in various ways."

Programs like these, Lamb said, can be the key to combating the opioid crisis, especially if they are open to wide range of individuals.

“Having these support services in place can be beneficial to people at all ages and at all levels of their recovery,” Lamb said. “It just opens up your world in ways you didn’t expect.”