Fraternity and sorority life has long been acknowledged as a rite of passage, an opportunity to bond with like-minded kids who are “sowing their oats.” But when a rite of passage becomes a gateway to alcohol misuse and drug addiction, Greek life takes on a new and dangerous connotation.
Bad Press May Yield a Good Outcome
The frequency of deadly hazing practices seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Every week, a story breaks about a Greek life related incident resulting in severe injury or death. In fact, according to a November 2017 article in USA Today, four deaths have been attributed to the excesses of Greek life in the past year alone.
The pressure is on colleges and universities to clean up their acts when it comes curtailing such activities. But what will it really take to make a difference? Threats of lawsuits may not be enough. Perhaps it will only come when young adults, who are so susceptible to peer pressure and the need to belong, truly understand the dangers of alcohol and drug addiction.
The Perfect Storm: A Climate that Supports Abuse
Before we get into the solutions, it’s important to understand the problem, which, in large part is environmental. In general, Greek life subject to the following influences:
- Intensive group living: When you’re spending 18-20 hours together, it‘s very difficult to avoid the many temptations extended to you. Waking hours are extended, the fear of missing out is enhanced, and the stigma and social pressures attached to “just saying no” are simply overpowering.
- Academic Pressure: For many, getting a degree from a reputable school is a key to future success. Not making the grade can be a devastating blow to students both psychologically and economically. This pressure may cause students to use illegal “study drugs”, such as Adderall, that supposedly help students focus or indulge in all-nighters to get work done or cram for tests.
- Lack of Adult Supervision: Whether on campus or off, fraternities and sororities have operated as independent entities. More and more, this independence is being scrutinized. Many smaller educational institutions have chosen to ban Greek life or institute their own, more controlled versions of fraternities and sororities, which tend to be more diverse and less likely to encourage alcohol misuse.
- Access to Alcohol and Drugs: It would be naïve to think that drugs and alcohol on college campuses could be entirely eliminated. Despite the learning-centric environment, they are a composed of young white males who experience the highest rates of alcohol and drug addiction.
- Hazing: Rituals become rituals because they are passed on. Good or bad, they can be unstoppable because nobody wants to be the one associated with ending them. Hazing is a ritual. As in many cult-like rituals, the influence of drugs and alcohol loosens inhibitions and allows high-risk activities to take place. Under the influence, unreasonable activities are acceptable.
The Positive Side of Greek Life
There are certainly many positive aspects of being part of a fraternity or sorority. In larger institutions, they provide a place to belong. They are great sources of developing social and business networking skills that may propel a career. Fraternal organizations contribute to the vitality and economics of educational institutions. Many have also become active in their local communities, (e.g., tutoring kids and assisting with outreach programs), while others have aligned themselves with national charitable organizations. Unfortunately, these good deeds are often overshadowed by horror stories.
What Can a Parent or Loved One Do?
It can be very difficult to monitor and control student behavior once they are out of the watchful eyes of those who care for them. But there are some things that can be done.
- Encourage students to focus on academics first and Greek life later (i.e. after freshman year), so they get accustomed to the pressures of academics and socialization before pledging.
- Steer students towards schools that offer alternatives to Greek life or, per a new trend, encourage them to pledge to fraternities and sororities with stated anti-drug and anti-alcohol policies.
- Stay vigilant and be aware of the signs of alcohol and drug addiction.
- Seek professional support for yourself so you can learn how to help a college-age person to cope with alcohol abuse and drug addiction.
Get Help From a Family-Focused Treatment Center at Cornerstone
Cornerstone Recovery Center equips parents, families and loved ones with the tools and strategies they need to support those dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. For more information, please call us at 888-711-0354 or contact us online. All communications with our staff are confidential.