Why Greek Life Can Push Addictive Behavior to the Edge (and How to Rally Back)
3 December 2019,
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College students go off to school with high expectations of having fun, meeting friends, and enjoying life on campus. Some students join up with what is called ‘Greek Life,’ or fraternities and sororities. Some are known for their community service and giving back, while others are more widely known to be places that party. Even though there are strict guidelines on campuses about how much drinking can take place, students may find themselves in an organization that promotes drinking or where certain people struggle with addictive behaviors due to the stress and struggle of being in school.

Why it Happens

Greek organizations were designed as a place to share community, fun, and promote academic excellence for men and women across the country on college campuses. Alcohol and drugs have infiltrated them for decades, with some having more struggles than others. Alcohol is an easier one to fall into the trap of becoming addicted because it is most prevalent at parties and events hosted by organizations. Binge drinking is far more common among Greek students than non-affiliated students. Binge drinking contributes to some of the highest rates of accidents, assaults, and emergency room visits on college campuses. Other people who are not part of the Greek house may also experience assaults or ramifications of drinking on campus. 

Greek Community Life

One of the biggest aspects of life in the community within the Greek system is living quarters. While the Greek system provides social and professional benefits to college students, the members are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than non-Greek affiliated peers. This makes students more likely to drink or do drugs due to:

  • Living with others inside the house who drink or pressure others to drink
  • Hazing or initiation rituals that include this as part of the membership. Hazing can lead to alcohol poisoning, accidents, or even death for people involved
  • Inappropriate supervision: there are not many people enforcing rules within a Greek life home. Leaders of the fraternity and sorority may be senior upperclassmen still young themselves and part of the organization so campus officials may look the other way if it has a positive economic impact at the school
  • Social: pressure to conform and be part of the group can deeply impact how involved students get in the drinking or drug culture of the Greek organization. They may want to be social and not stand out as not participating. There is a vulnerable position that occurs when people are part of a Greek organization. If a student believes binge drinking or drug use makes them seem cooler, they are more likely to do it

Facing the Challenges

College students are susceptible to drug and alcohol use for so many reasons. Greek life is only one of them. Overall, students are vulnerable because they often desire community and connection. They are in college for a long time and want to pursue friends, social connection, community life, high academic performance, and all of it makes them vulnerable to addictive behaviors. They may come in with some addictive tendencies or addiction already. There are myriad challenges they face emotionally, spiritually, and physically as they are often away from home for the first time. Sororities and fraternities are often incubators for self-esteem issues that rigger emotional trauma during hazing rituals or other negative interactions. 

Finding Hope

When students struggle at school with drinking or drug use within Greek organizations, they often need outside help to get better. There is a struggle between how to deal with these issues and stay with their community. Sometimes it is better for someone to withdraw from an organization if it is not healthy for them to remain. Other times they can get help for their addiction or drinking and turn things around while staying in school.  It depends on the culture of the organization how much they are willing to support that person as they deal with those issues. Community life is important for college students, but so is sober support. Sober support networks, dry Greek organizations that are alcohol-free, and other community groups can often offer spaces that are helpful to people who need it to finish school sober. Getting checked into rehab is important for people who are struggling with addiction, but also mental health services should be provided. Dual diagnosis is important for college students because the early identification of struggles with mental health can alleviate lots of issues down the road with co-occurring addictive behaviors. If the campus or organization is not healthy, then it is maybe time to seek other places to connect or withdraw from Greek life and choose another path, instead.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree West, we support collegiate students in finding a place to belong. We encourage academic performance while seeking help for addiction.  Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877

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