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Information on Drinking & Drug Use in Fraternities

by Van Thompson

Fraternities have a long history as academic organizations that foster service and promote community and friendship. It's no secret, however, that some fraternities promote friendship primarily by having large parties. Drinking and drug use may be a part of fraternity parties, with some fraternities banned by their host schools due to ongoing concerns about illegal drinking and drugs.

Drugs and Drinking

Fraternity membership is a major predictor of alcohol and drug abuse, according to a 2007 study published in the "Psychology of Addictive Behavior." However, fraternity membership might not be the sole cause of drinking and drug abuse. The study also found that people who want to drink or use drugs are more likely to join fraternities and that fraternities may then reinforce substance abuse. Similarly, a 2005 study by University of Michigan researchers found that drug and alcohol abuse rates were higher among fraternity members than non-fraternity members.

Hazing

Drinking is sometimes a part of fraternity hazing rituals. Pledges may be encouraged to drink large quantities of alcohol to gain membership in a fraternity. At Cornell University in 2013, for example, eight fraternities were investigated for hazing and alcohol abuse incidents, with some of these incidents combining alcohol and hazing. Among new fraternity members who are eager to gain acceptance, peer pressure to drink and fit in can trump common sense.

Criminal Behavior

The alcohol-fueled party environment at some fraternities can contribute to criminal behavior, particularly rape. A 2013 study published in the "Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice" found that alcohol commonly played a role in on-campus date rapes and that members of Greek organizations were more likely to be involved in these incidents than students who were not members of fraternities or sororities. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Center for College Health and Safety reports that drinking, particularly among members of fraternities, can also play a role in on-campus vandalism.

Discouraging Problem Behaviors

Some schools have resorted to limiting or banning alcohol consumption by fraternity members. The University of California at Berkeley, for example, banned alcohol at fraternity and sorority parties in 2010. College-sponsored alcohol abuse prevention and treatment programs can give fraternity members the access to help they may need, and zero tolerance policies with strong enforcement may also help to reduce problematic drinking and drug use.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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