As a college student, you may feel like the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been before. You could be exploring the humble beginnings of your dream career or building a life you can proudly call your own. When drugs become part of the picture, that can all be threatened. 

If you’re dealing with a substance use disorder (SUD), you don’t have to be ashamed. You’re not alone: 2.4% of college students have to go to addiction rehab. 

Thankfully, more colleges are investing in in-campus addiction resources. You can get access to detox programs, professional counseling, and 12-Step support groups in your own school.

Many students successfully finish outpatient treatment while at college, which doesn’t require that you leave. Still, some students need to go to inpatient, which is a 24/7 live-in experience. By definition, you’ll need to take a leave of absence to do that. But that doesn’t mean the end of college for you. 

Even if your SUD needs more intensive support, your college can still support you in other ways. You can prioritize your studies by making sure your addiction doesn’t get in its way in the long run.

Seeking treatment is the best next step, regardless of the changes it’ll make to your lifestyle. Remember, a leave of absence is temporary, so you can come back and continue your schooling even if you need to take a break.  

Can You Recover While Going to School?

Recovery options are available to you. The important thing is to work with your treatment center. Talk to your care coordinator about your situation and how much help you need. 

At the very least, you’ll need help detoxing. It’s the first part of treatment where you break the cycle of substance use. Withdrawal symptoms make this incredibly hard to do alone.

For your safety, you should detox at a treatment facility. You’ll get help through the worst of it so you can continue overcoming your addiction. This can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days, so it’s the quickest phase of recovery. 

After that, you’ll be able to choose between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Here’s how they’re different:

  • Inpatient treatment: is for people with severe SUD. This means they have to be constantly monitored by the facility to make sure they stay safe. Those who need inpatient treatment either have a high risk of relapsing or putting themselves in danger.
  • Outpatient treatment: is a less intensive option for people who can better manage themselves. Depending on the facility, you’ll be required to attend treatment sessions. These can last for a few hours for 3 to 7 days a week. 

More schools are now implementing college recovery programs to help students with addiction problems. These aren’t the same as an outpatient treatment program: you should still seek help. But remember that college recovery programs can be a great supplemental help when you’re in long-term recovery later.

Will You Get Kicked Out if You Leave School to Get Treatment?

Seeking SUD treatment isn’t grounds for getting kicked out of college. In fact, your college will support it as a necessary step to your well-being.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to protect you from situations like this. According to the law, you can take a break from school to get help for addiction without any academic consequences.

The ADA covers both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. If you need to leave school for a few months to attend inpatient, they’re required to accommodate you

You’ll be able to come back to school when treatment is over. In some cases, grade forgiveness might be applied, such as if you leave in the middle of the semester. Talk to your college about the specific policies that they have.

Should You Take a Leave of Absence for Addiction Treatment?

Your entire life relies on your recovery. It has to be your biggest, most important commitment. It shouldn’t be a hard decision to take a leave of absence for recovery, but many students struggle with deciding to leave, even temporarily. 

Keep the following in mind:

  • The consequences of your SUD will only get worse if you don’t address it.
  • It can negatively affect your performance in school.
  • You can struggle to maintain your relationships.
  • Recovery is all about improving yourself and your health.

You have to prioritize your treatment. Your recovery will already be challenging enough without the added stress of school. If your studies could become an extra source of anxiety, you can take a leave of absence.

This is an option whether you choose inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. Getting help for addiction should be spent reconnecting with yourself, not worrying about your grades. You can do that later, once your recovery is established.

How Do You Take a Leave of Absence for Addiction Treatment?

You don’t have to wait until the semester ends to get treatment. When you make the decision to prioritize your recovery, you can file for a leave of absence. 

The process is different for every school. Check with your school’s administrative office to see what their policies are. In most cases, the process is similar from school to school. You’ll fill out some paperwork and provide documentation about your condition. 

When you take your leave, make sure you do the following:

  • Get a doctor’s note from your primary physician. It should explain why you’re taking a leave of absence.
  • If it’s in the middle of a semester, let your professors know. Let them support your recovery by telling you how your leave will affect your performance in class.
  • Talk to your college advisor about your plan. You can get further help to maintain your standing while you’re on leave.

If you struggle to do these on your own, ask for help from someone in your support group. They could be a friend, a family member, or anybody you trust. They can talk you through these difficult conversations and reassure you that you’re making the right choice. 

Your college will support your decision to take a leave of absence. They want to see you overcome your problem so you can return and succeed in school.

Will You Lose Your Scholarship if You Drop Out for Rehab?

You won’t necessarily lose your scholarship if you drop out for rehab, but it’s possible if you go about leaving the wrong way. Treating your SUD isn’t a valid reason to lose your scholarship, so you can’t lose your scholarship simply for getting treatment. 

You could lose your scholarship if it requires that you maintain certain grades and leaving halfway through the semester results in an incomplete grade. But that’s different for each scholarship, and it doesn’t always happen. Many schools will waive grades when you take a leave of absence. 

To actually know if you can keep your financial aid, you need to coordinate with the institution that gave it to you.

If you haven’t gotten into any trouble because of your addiction, you can be offered options to maintain your scholarship. You might be asked to write a letter of appeal explaining why your grades dropped. This is a good opportunity to be honest about your addiction.

Regardless of what happens, there’s always hope. Hundreds of places in the country offer college scholarships to support students recovering from addiction.

Will You Lose Your Spot on the Team if You Leave for Rehab?

There could be a chance you’ll lose your spot on the team. Recovery needs total focus, and participating in competitive sporting events can be a distraction. Your coach may decide that it’s better for your health that you avoid sports until you’re in recovery. 

If your spot on the team is tied to a scholarship, then you could potentially lose it. It’s very important to be open with your coach and peers about what’s happening. 

The earlier you get help and the more honest you are about it, the better the outcome can be. Your coach can help you find resources and get help before losing your spot on the team becomes a possibility. 

Having a history of SUD doesn’t disqualify you from pursuing a career in sports. Your chances of performing well will be better after treatment.

Can You Go Back to School if You Drop Out?

As long as you process a proper leave of absence, you can go back to school

It’s important to look into your college’s medical withdrawal policy for SUD treatment. It should let you know what they’ll require so you can continue to complete your degree. If you can’t find that information, your academic advisor can help you. 

In all cases, you’ll be asked to provide proof of your condition, which may include:

  • A note from your doctor referring you for treatment
  • A letter from your insurance company confirming an impending stay at rehab
  • A letter from your treatment center confirming details

With that documentation, your school will be able to welcome you back when rehab is over. 

Again, every college has different procedures for this, so it’s very important to check with your advisor first.

Does Your School Have Academic Forgiveness Programs for Addiction?

Academic forgiveness programs are another way colleges support students suffering from addiction. You might be worried that leaving college halfway through a semester will leave you with a report card full of Fs and incompletes, but that’s not necessarily true. 

These programs let you repeat a course for a chance to earn a better grade. You’ll need a valid reason to be accommodated. Health reasons are generally considered valid, including substance use disorders. 

If you’re approved for academic forgiveness, your previous grade won’t be part of your GPA. Only the grade from retaking the course will count. 

You can make sure you’re eligible by being responsible with your SUD treatment. Don’t wait to put anything in danger, whether it be yourself or your academic standing.

Find Addiction Treatment Near Your School Today

To safeguard your success in college, seek professional help. If you can’t get it from on-campus programs, look for a treatment center near your school. Our directory can help you find a treatment center that’s close enough. 

There are tons of people in your college who you can talk to about your problem. You can approach a professor, a guidance counselor, or a faculty advisor. With enough info about your situation, they’ll be able to recommend the next best step for you. There’s no reason why college can’t continue for you after you get addiction treatment.


  1. Addiction Support Goes Mainstream
  2. Chapter 4: Substance Abuse under the ADA
  3. Collegiate Recovery Programs: A Win-Win Proposition for Students and Colleges
  4. Sporting activity and drug use: Alcohol, cigarette and cannabis use among elite student athletes.
  5. Taking A Leave Of Absence: What You Need To Know

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