Going off to college can be equal parts daunting and exciting for many people. Choosing to join a sorority or fraternity comes with the promise of a tight-knit community full of new and often lifelong friends. Greek life is a great way to meet other college students and become part of an exclusive yet familial group of people who generally share similar interests.
Additionally, many sororities and fraternities are involved in one or multiple philanthropic efforts, making it easy and fun to give back to others and the community. In fact, according to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, more than $7 million is raised and more than 850,000 hours are volunteered annually by those in the Greek community.
However, while there are many benefits that come with joining a fraternity or sorority, there are a few downsides, with one of the most notable being substance abuse.
Prevalence Of Substance Abuse In Greek Life
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, half of residential fraternity members show symptoms of Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AAD) by the age of 35.
A recent Harvard study found that four out of five Greeks are binge drinkers, whereas only two out of five college students in general binge drink.
Many factors that contribute to these alarmingly high rates of alcohol abuse within the Greek community.
Additionally, while illicit drug use is not rampant in fraternities and sororities, there may be a small group of brothers or sisters who partake in illicit drug use. If you feel that this is the case in the particular chapter you want to join, it’s important to address this issue before becoming a member to ensure that it won’t become a problem now or down the road.
Fraternities And Binge Drinking
While joining a fraternity is a great way to make friends and become part of an organization, fraternity life is also typically accompanied by a lot of partying. Whether it be a party at the chapter house or an off-campus event for Greeks, alcohol consumption and binge drinking are commonplace in the lifestyle of fraternity members.
Binge drinking can contribute to numerous negative consequences, including hospital visits, low grades, accidents and sexual assaults. Binge drinking can affect not only the person participating in it but also those around him or her. For example, if a resident of the fraternity house is actively binge drinking, he can disrupt others’ sleep schedule as well as their ability to focus on school work, or may encourage others to binge drink as well.
Sororities And Alcohol Use
Fraternities aren’t the only members in the Greek community known for their party lifestyle. Sororities can also fall prey to excessive drinking due to the Greek party lifestyle. It’s important to note that not every fraternity or sorority is part of this lifestyle; in fact, there are many that frown upon the constant partying that others participate in.
However, more often than not, becoming a member of a sorority opens up the doors to many social activities where alcohol is served. Excessive alcohol use can lead to risky behaviors, some of which include unplanned sexual conduct as well as abuse of other substances.
When sororities participate in hazing, trauma and self-esteem issues can arise in its victims. Whether it be taunting someone to consume a certain alcoholic beverage against her will or any other form of hazing that is embarrassing, demeaning or dangerous, the trauma that can result can lead to substance abuse later in life.
Risk Factors Of Substance Abuse In Greek Life
A major drawback to joining a sorority or fraternity is the opportunity to live in the chapter’s “house,” which is often overseen by the members themselves. Living in a sorority or fraternity house provides many benefits, including the opportunity to foster friendships and share a living environment with like-minded individuals.
However, this living situation can also be a source of constant peer pressure and the expectation to participate in the regular partying that often accompanies the Greek lifestyle. Being constantly exposed to this kind of pressure can make it difficult to opt out of drinking and/or drug use, habits which can lead to addiction.
Easy Access To Alcohol
Living in a chapter house can also come with constant exposure to and easy access to alcohol and/or drugs. While many Greek residents are typically freshmen in college and under legal drinking age, there are also residents who are older and able to provide alcohol for those who can’t purchase alcohol themselves. In other words, those who would generally not have access to alcohol now have a ready and available source.
As part of their membership initiation rituals, many fraternities and sororities take part in hazing the new members. While this ritual may be completed in good spirit, certain forms of hazing, such as requiring a member to drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period, can be incredibly dangerous. It can also breed less-than-ideal habits when it comes to alcohol use within the organization. In the worst cases, hazing has led to alcohol poisoning and even death.
Alcohol Abuse In Greek Life
In a 2007 study by the Psychology of Addictive Behavior, it was found that membership in a fraternity was a major predictor of future alcohol and drug abuse. That’s not to say that joining a fraternity or sorority automatically implies that an individual will abuse alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, many people interested in the “party” lifestyle may seek out Greek life because they believe it will support that lifestyle. Oftentimes, they are right.
According to an article published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), members of fraternities and sororities engage in binge drinking significantly more (70 percent of men and 50 percent of women) than those not in a Greek organization. Additionally, it was found that the number of drinks consumed per week were also much higher for sorority and fraternity members, with the average being 12 drinks per week for men and six drinks per week for women.
Abusing alcohol comes with consequences, especially for college students. Grades can suffer, bad decisions can be made and the overall enjoyment of life can decline. Further, addiction can result, creating a problem that may be difficult to overcome without help. Understanding the consequences that excessive alcohol use can bring is important to taking the necessary steps to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Prescription And Other Drug Abuse In Greek Life
Being a member of a Greek organization can lead to more risky behaviors, and drug use is a category that falls under those risky behaviors. College students may take a stimulant to cram for an exam with other members of the chapter, or be offered a drug while at a fraternity or sorority party. However, a Greek member is exposed to drug use, this type of substance abuse is often an unfortunate part of the Greek culture that can have severe consequences.
New members are also highly susceptible to peer pressure and simply want to fit in with their brothers or sisters, making a recipe for disaster when it comes to drug and alcohol use. The expectations to participate in substance use can often be high, and members sometimes feel that it’s easier to do what everyone else is doing.
Questions To Ask A Greek Chapter To Determine Their Party Habits
While drug and alcohol use may seem like the underlying theme of Greek life, it’s not how all sororities and fraternities operate. In fact, there are even “dry” chapters that abstain from drugs and alcohol completely.
A few questions to ask a chapter about their stance on alcohol/drug use and partying habits include:
- What kind of events does your chapter hold each semester?
- How many of those events involve alcohol?
- Are policies in place regarding alcohol use? Is it allowed in the house?
- Have any of your events ever been broken up or a cause for concern? Why?
- How many parties are held at the chapter house?
- Is there an expectation for my attendance at those parties?
- Do you offer any substance abuse counseling or education to your members?
- What do you do to ensure your policies are enforced, and what are the consequences?
Prevention Of Substance Abuse In Greek Life
Constant exposure to peer pressure can make it difficult to abstain from frequent drug or alcohol use, but it is possible. Taking the appropriate steps to thoroughly research a chapter and their partying habits is the first step to preventing falling under the influence of regular drug or alcohol use. Once you have decided on a chapter, seeking out other members with similar interests as well as those who also desire to abstain from or use alcohol or drugs infrequently can help to keep you on the right track.
Finding others who share your views can also help to keep your chapter as a whole from making bad decisions when it comes to substance use. It’s often a small group of people who decide to make not-so-great decisions. Understanding that you are not alone in choosing not to participate can help to further solidify your healthy choices.
Joining a sorority or fraternity does not have to be a decision that comes with the constant pressure to drink or use drugs, especially if you are upfront about your views from the start. While this does take some courage, it will help you find others with the same stance on substance use.
Getting Help For Substance Abuse While Being A Part Of Greek Life
When drinking and partying become your top priority, education and other factors of your life will suffer. If you believe you are suffering from a substance or alcohol use disorder, it’s important that you seek help as soon as possible.
Getting help for substance abuse can be a scary thought, and it may mean that you have to take off time from your college education to seek treatment. However, as frightening as leaving your friends and old habits behind may seem, taking actions to get help will only pave the way to a brighter future.
Contact us at Substance Abuse Rehab to learn more about the treatment options available to college students and the prevalence of substance abuse within the Greek community.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse – Greek life membership associated with binge drinking and marijuana use in later life
- New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) – Fraternity and Sorority Life Handbook
- US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health – Heavy Drinking in College Students: Who Is at Risk and What Is Being Done About It?
- US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health – Fraternity and Sorority Involvement, Social Influences, and Alcohol Use Among College Students