Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Daniel H. Lende, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.


Addiction, College student substance use, Cue reactivity, Neuroanthropology


Natural recovery is inhibition or moderation of problematic substance use without employing the use of formal addiction services. A neuroanthropological approach to natural recovery highlights the importance of both social and biological aspects of achieving this "self" led process of change. Throughout this project I take a critical anthropological approach to natural recovery, which explores a more holistic conception and historically situated view of current natural recovery theory. This research project employs a neuroanthropological perspective to assess how college students perform natural recovery. Using ethnographic methods, which highlight the social and physical experience of moderation, I discuss how students negotiate pathways for cessation/moderation within the university structure. The university is increasingly a neoliberal space, which influences the way key stakeholders (faculty, staff, and students) perceive and pursue pathways for cessation/moderation. Thus, I found students pursue natural recovery by pulling on recovery capital, facilitated by the university, but outside of traditional cessation pathways, to stop problematic use. Additionally, I employed Bourdieu’s notions of practice and habitus to highlight how students negotiate their lives within this structure and pull on their recovery capital to mitigate cues, proposing a biocultural perspective of natural recovery. The goal of this research is to show how students leverage social relationships and cues in ways that are meaningful to sustaining abstinence/moderation without formal guidance or structure. This work contributes to the small body of literature already established around natural recovery and cue reactivity, and shows how ethnographic methods can and should be applied to both of these fields of research.