Drinking and Drug Abuse in Greek Life

Fraternity and sorority members make up some of the highest-risk college students in the nation when it comes to continued and excessive substance abuse.

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Binge Drinking in Greek Organizations

The Greek system has institutionalized many college students to alcohol and drug abuse. Finding a strong support system for recovery is the most important thing in regaining sobriety. Many substances are abused on campuses with Greek organizations, but alcohol is easily the one that causes the most concern. Binge drinking is far more common among the Greeks than non-affiliated students.

4 out of 5 fraternity and sorority members are binge drinkers. In comparison, other research suggests 2 out of 5 college students overall are regular binge drinkers.

- A Harvard University study

Binge drinking contributes to some of the highest rates of accidents, sexual assaults, emergency room visits and deaths on college campuses. It isn’t just the drinkers facing the consequences either. Approximately 83 percent of Greek housing residents report having suffered as a result of their brothers’ and sisters’ alcohol consumption. Learn more about binge drinking in college.

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Fraternities and Substance Abuse

Members of both fraternities and sororities are at a higher risk for binge drinking and drug use than the rest of the college population. However, research suggests young men are more likely to drink excessively than young women are. Men are also more likely than their female counterparts to engage in risky or dangerous activities or feel pressured by male competition.

Because of this, fraternity members (specifically those who are white and under 25) comprise the group of college students at the highest risk of developing a substance abuse problem or facing severe consequences for drinking or drug use.

Greek Life and Substance Abuse

While the Greek system provides social and professional benefits to college students, its members are also much more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than their non-Greek affiliated peers. There are several possible reasons that being involved with a fraternity or sorority makes students more likely to drink or do drugs, including:

Group living

Peer pressure is hard to avoid when it’s around you at all times. Students living on campus are more likely to drink or do drugs. This likelihood goes up even more in Greek housing.

Hazing or initiation rituals

Fraternities, sororities and even athletic teams and other clubs may include some form of hazing as part of their membership initiation rituals. Hazing nearly always involves alcohol to some extent. In the worst of cases, hazing can lead to alcohol poisoning, accidents and even death.

Lack of supervision

In many cases, there are no resident assistants or rule enforcers in Greek housing to keep drinking levels down. Leaders of fraternities and sororities are upperclassmen who are still young people themselves. Additionally, campus officials may be willing to look the other way on Greek-sanctioned activities because of the positive economic impact of having certain fraternities or sororities represented at their school.

Social pressure

Because many college students pledge Greek organizations in the hope of establishing a strong social bond, they can be especially vulnerable to the social pressures that come with membership. If a student believes that binge drinking or drug use will make them seem more fun or cool, they are more likely to do so.

Challenges Facing Sorority Members

Up to 62 percent of sorority members admit to drinking heavily compared to only about 41 percent of college women not in the Greek system. Excessive drinking can lead to abuse of other substances and encourage engagement in risky behaviors.

Sororities can also act as an incubator for self-esteem issues and trigger emotional trauma during hazing rituals and other negative interactions with sorority sisters. According to a survey, parents of sorority members were 3 times as likely to worry about their daughter’s body image and self-esteem than parents of female students outside of the Greek system.

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The Problem with Hazing

Approximately 55 percent of students who join fraternities, sororities, sports teams or clubs face hazing.

Although some hazing rituals may be considered fairly harmless, others can be downright dangerous. Excessive drinking is an all-too-common side effect of many hazing activities, often with tragic results.

Young men and women come to college with less “partying” experience and lower alcohol tolerance than their older brothers and sisters in the Greek system. Not knowing their limits while also deeply wanting to fit in can lead to catastrophe for these college freshman.

A disproportionate amount of alcohol-related deaths within fraternities happen to freshman. In fact, of the 24 fraternity-related freshmen deaths since 2005, 15 occurred during or after recruiting events, hazing and initiation rituals.

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