Fraternities and sororities are a significant part of many college students’ lives, and popular media often portrays them as a negative part of the university institution. Despite those representations, it’s important to understand the nature of Greek life and its relationship with substance abuse in a university.
What Is Greek Life?
Greek life represents the sum of all fraternities and sororities on a college campus. Each of these institutions is identified by a series of Greek letters that may represent the first letters of a phrase or a series of words important to that fraternity or sorority.
Phi Beta Kappa was the very first fraternity, beginning at the College of William and Mary in 1776. This society began as a place for students to study and debate philosophy, and its creation heralded the beginning of many similar institutions.
Over the years, fraternities and sororities changed with the times, but once you enter the society, you become part of a close-knit community, typically living under the same house with fellow brothers or sisters.
How Does Substance Abuse Factor into Greek Life?
It’s these chapter houses that receive most of the scrutiny surrounding fraternities and sororities. After all, there are often dozens of young men or young women living in close proximity with minimal supervision from outside authority, but does this environment foster the potential for substance abuse?
Some studies indicate that it does, with members of fraternities and sororities at a higher risk for drinking and drug use (1). Parties are often viewed as a major part of fraternity and sorority life, and studies have shown that those who pursue the life, especially men, are often at risk for greater alcohol issues (2). Unfortunately, students who participate in Greek life often don’t recognize the health dangers. They may view the parties as harmless fun and part of the social structure of the organizations.
How Can Greek Life Do Better?
Greek life may create an environment where some negative behaviors are encouraged, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the positive aspects that Greek life can bring both to a university and to its members. Membership in a fraternity or sorority lasts a lifetime, and there is a certain amount of loyalty between members throughout the country.
Fraternities and sororities often participate in humanitarian projects and seek to better the community around them. They raise funds for charities and contribute their time to volunteer in their local communities.
Because of the stigma that has risen around fraternities and sororities, many are taking steps to reduce that negative reputation. Many societies require mandatory education on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and restrictions are made on parties involving alcohol use. Despite these precautions, many fraternities and sororities still struggle with abuse of drugs and alcohol. It’s important to be aware of these issues if you are considering joining the Greek life.