College students are already at high risk for developing substance abuse problems due to a variety of environmental factors, emotional stressors, and the sheer number of stressful life changes they experience while in college. Research has found that students who are members of Greek organizations may be at an even higher risk for developing substance abuse disorders.

The Alarming Trend of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Greek Life

Greek organizations play a very influential role on college campuses, with hundreds of thousands of members across the country. While many students receive a variety of benefits from their sorority or fraternity memberships, research over the past decade has consistently found that students involved in college Greek life are more likely to experience alcohol-related problems than non-Greek students.1

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that students who are members of a Greek organization, such as a fraternity or a sorority, reported heavier alcohol use than their non-greek peers.2 Additionally, the same study found that students who were Greek members were more likely to report using marijuana and other drugs than were non-Greek students.2

While alcohol-related risky behaviors such as unprotected sex were high among both student populations, student Greek members expressed less confidence that their peers would approve of condom use, suggesting a greater risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among Greek members.2

The frequency of drunk driving among Greek students was also found to be higher, according to another study published by the NASPA Journal. It found that Greek house residents were more likely to drink and drive or ride with a drunk driver after binge drinking. Thirty-nine percent of fraternity house residents, compared to 19 percent of non-fraternity residents, reported riding in a car with a drunk driver, and results among sorority residents found the same results to be true.3

Although many of the negative alcohol-related consequences Greek members experience, such as hangovers, unsafe sexual activity, and academic problems, are also prevalent among non-Greek students, residents of fraternities and sororities report experiencing these at a much higher rate than non-residents.4

The results of these studies suggest that many students involved in Greek organizations on campus may benefit from alcohol and drug detox, as well as additional substance abuse treatment, but living in an environment that is permissive of substance abuse may keep them from seeking it out.

Why Are Students in the Greek System More Likely to Use Alcohol and Drugs?

Although membership in a sorority or fraternity certainly does not always result in students developing substance abuse disorders, several factors may put them at advanced risk.5

  • Hazing and initiation rituals – Some fraternities and sororities require students to engage in humiliating and dangerous hazing or initiation rituals. Students who are seeking membership in these organizations may be pressured or forced into participating in this type of culture that tends to be accepted within the Greek college community.
  • Increased tolerance – Social pressure to engage in binge drinking and drug use creates intense social pressure for students who want to be accepted into the Greek social circle. These students may be much more likely to engage in such behaviors, simply as a way to be an accepted part of that social community.
  • Community living atmosphere – Students who live in a community atmosphere are more likely to engage in the activities their peers adopt. This is another reason college students are more likely to engage in binge drinking and drug use, whether they’re Greek members or not. Still, research has shown Greek residents are even more likely to partake in binge drinking.
  • Lack of adult supervision – Adult supervision in Greek residences is sparse and house managers are often older students, who are still young themselves. This may play a role in the increased tolerance of substance use within these environments.


How to Stay Sober

Regardless of whether you’ve already completed an alcohol and drug detox program or you’re doing research for a loved one, there are many ways you can safeguard your sobriety and reduce the risk of relapsing or developing a substance abuse disorder while in college.

  1. Live off campus and commute –  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse is highest among students living in fraternity and sorority houses, and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.6 If you’re in recovery, living at home or at a structured sober living home might be the best way to maintain a sober lifestyle while enrolled in college.
  2. Join an alternative campus community group – Joining a Greek organization comes with many community-oriented benefits, but there are many other campus or community groups you can join without deliberately putting yourself in a potentially harmful living environment. If you are in recovery, joining a local recovery support group or enrolling in an intensive outpatient program is always a great idea. Your sober coach, counselor, or a family member may also be willing to do some research with you to find additional options.

If you are a student who is currently struggling with a substance abuse problem, our individualized drug and alcohol detox programs are a great foundation for a substance abuse treatment plan. If you’re ready for a fresh start, please contact our detox center to learn more about our detox services. Please call to get started today.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746189/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2430938/
  3. https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/jsarp.2009.46.3.5017.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2238801/
  5. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun01/fraternities.aspx
  6. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/collegefactsheet/Collegefactsheet.pdf
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