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Binging on Greek Life: Substance Abuse Among Sororities and Fraternities

Members of Greek organizations have a reputation for excessive drug and alcohol use. According to a Harvard University study, four out of every five sorority or fraternity members are binge drinkers, compared to two out of five college students that are not affiliated with a Greek organization. 

To understand how an increase in substance abuse disorders relates to participation in college fraternities or sororities, let’s first define the terms. Substance abuse refers to the overindulgence in an addictive substance, most often associated with drugs or alcohol. Greek letter organizations or GLOs refer to the umbrella term “Greek life,” which includes both sororities and fraternities. In general, undergraduate students obtain membership in one of these organizations in college, then keep their association for life. 

Substance Abuse Among Fraternities and Sororities 

Recent research shows that binge drinking is more common among college students involved in sororities and fraternities than non-affiliated students. A study conducted by the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2018 found that college students who have lived in a sorority or fraternity are more likely to continue binge drinking and marijuana use through early midlife. By age 35, close to half of fraternity members living in college housing facilities had symptoms of an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Reasons why being involved in a fraternity or sorority makes students more likely to suffer from substance use disorders include:

  • Hazing
  • Lack of supervision
  • Group living
  • Social pressures 

Statistics of Underage Drinking in College

If the statistics on substance abuse among sororities and fraternities aren’t shocking enough, the statistics of underage drinking in college are appallingly high as well. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month — of which two out of three engaged in binge drinking.

About 20 percent of college students today meet the criteria for an AUD. Consequences of underage drinking in college include unsafe sex, driving under the influence, health issues, injuries, involvement with the police, suicide attempts, vandalism and property damage. 

Members of both sororities and fraternities are at a higher risk of drug use and binge drinking than their non-Greek life peers. More specifically, fraternity members (males who are under the age of 25) are the group of college students that have the highest risk of developing a substance abuse problem. This may be because men are more likely than their female counterparts to engage in risky behavior or feel pressured by other men.

Get Help at Gateway

If someone you know is in a fraternity or sorority and may be struggling with a substance abuse problem, get help as soon as you can. At Gateway, our knowledgeable staff of doctors, psychologists and licensed clinical team members can help with everything from alcoholism to illicit drug abuse as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact Gateway today to help your loved one get back on track. 

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