College fraternities have been a dependable, ever-present staple on college campuses for decades. They are as old as the colleges they represent. Students join fraternities for the opportunity, leadership, social interaction, and a chance to network with other young men with big goals and even bigger dreams of their own. Fraternity brothers have gone on to excel in life as CEOs of major companies, supreme court justices, and even US presidents.
While fraternities have been a constant presence in campus life for over a century, these groups are not supported and admired by everyone. They have a dark side too.
The peer pressure, combined with a strong proclivity to engage in immoral and risky parties, make for a dangerous environment in what is supposed to be an excellent opportunity for young men.
The Dark Side of Fraternities
While fraternities publish impressive statistics about post-college leadership, success, and personal achievement among their bonded brothers, there are negative sides to fraternities that often go underreported.
For example, a study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reported that:
- 50% of fraternity members perform “poorly” on tests or projects, compared to 25% of non-fraternity students
- Over 500,000 fraternity members experience unintentional injuries every year
- 600,000 fraternity members either are the victim of or commit an assault every year
- 70,000 cases of sexual assault and rape occur in fraternity houses annually
- About 1,400 fraternity members die from alcohol-related causes each year
- Fraternities and sororities make headlines constantly for rape. 1 in 5 women experience rape or attempted rape in college, but among sorority sisters, 2 in 5 experience such trauma
- Fraternity brothers commit rape at a frequency of 300% more than their non-fraternity peers
This is just a brief glimpse at the struggle and darkness that dwells in fraternity houses. When these statistics are more closely examined, the common denominator that always seems present is alcohol and drug use.
It is the pervasive drug and alcohol abuse, which make fraternities like training grounds for future drug addicts.
Alcohol and Drug Use in Fraternities
Fraternity brothers binge drink at rates alarmingly higher than their non-fraternity peers. About 36% of college students binge drink on a monthly basis. However, 86% of fraternity brothers binge drink on a monthly basis.
Such alcohol consumption in a fraternity house leads to incidences of violent assault, injury, car accidents, academic failure, sexual assault, and even death.
But for being in a college fraternity, the behaviors exhibited by young men in these organizations would be indicative of, or classified as addictive.
This problem does not begin, nor does it end with alcohol. In fact, drug use has become more common in fraternities.
What was once a “party scene” that was primarily fueled by alcohol, has developed into a scene heavily concentrated with other drugs of abuse.
- Marijuana usage rates in college students (while still lower than it is in non-college peers) is climbing among fraternity members
- Amphetamine use with drugs like Ritalin and Adderall is more common among fraternity members than other college students. Fraternity members abuse amphetamines at double the rate than that of non-college peers. The addictive nature of these drugs makes those who abuse them, more likely to become drug addicts
- Since the 1990s, fraternity members have experienced an increase of over 400% in the recreational use of prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium. In addition to being dangerous CNS (central nervous system) depressant, benzodiazepines can have extremely addictive effects.
- It is not yet a “normal” occurrence, but illicit drug use within fraternity homes is a growing concern. This is especially true with heroin, which has grown in prevalence among America’s twenty-somethings over the last several years
Multiple factors combine to make fraternities a melting pot for drug abuse and addiction likelihood. Peer pressure, partying, hazing, initiation, companionship, solidarity, and many other factors combine to make fraternities a hotspot for poor judgment and unhealthy decisions.
A 2007 study published in Psychology of Addictive Behavior, focused on how fraternities are often not the cause of such negative behavior, rather a fostering environment where a desired behavior is considered normal. The article concludes that young men who want to be allowed to behave like an addict, could do so in a fraternity environment.
The study explores how young men who are already addicts are especially attracted to fraternities because their addictive behavior can blend into normal and prevalent behavior patterns.
Whether a young man is already an addict, or susceptible to becoming one, fraternities are some of the best places to foster and mold a young addict. In fraternities, young men are under intense and constant pressure, surrounded buy drugs and alcohol.
Any young man who is already addicted, and in search of a way to blend in to college life, may appear to be no different from his fraternity brothers.
Fraternities, as organizations, have no interest in creating a generation of drug addicts, bearing their brand, but how will they avoid it, with the pervasive nature of the drug and opioid epidemic sweeping the country?
Creating an Anti-Drug Culture in Fraternities
The key to resolving substance abuse in fraternities, without having to sacrifice the institution of fraternity is to promote an anti-drug culture. Some schools have resorted to completely banning alcohol from all fraternity and sorority houses. University of California at Berkeley, for example, banned alcohol at fraternity and sorority houses in 2010. This was considered by many to be a move in the right direction.
Other colleges have sponsored alcohol prevention and treatment programs to give fraternity members the access and help they need to gain freedom from substances. Zero tolerance policies with strong enforcement have been an additional layer of discouragement of alcohol consumption and abuse.
Steps like these may be just what is needed for fraternities. Far too often, partying and substance abuse gets out of control, and suddenly life changing events have taken place:
- blacking out, then waking to sexual assault charges
- Waking up in the hospital with alcohol or drug poisoning
- Getting the notice of academic probation, or worse, expulsion for incomplete or failing classes
There is no list long enough to cover all of the negative consequences that may result from the alcohol and drug abuse which, run rampant through testosterone-fueled fraternities.
Another important part of creating an anti-substance abuse culture in fraternities is to educate the brothers, staff, alumni, faculty, and families of the dangers associated with substance abuse of all kinds, including alcohol.
Fraternities are supposed to be about brotherhood, networking, and support, all of which can be done without the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
|This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.|