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Drinking and drug abuse in Greek life have become quite common. It appears that many people associate the two with one another. Movies, TV shows and other media outlets often depict Greek life with parties and social events. It’s not unusual to see frat brothers chugging beers on shows.

While there are many benefits to joining a fraternity or sorority, studies have shown that Greek members are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than non-Greek members. They’re exposed to more risk factors. The substance abuse can carry onto the rest of adulthood.

About 50% of residential fraternity members will struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) by the time they reach the age of 35.”

There’s also been a lot of media coverage on alcohol and drug abuse. In extreme situations, substance abuse can lead to serious consequences, like overdose and death.

This guide will take a look at alcohol abuse and drug abuse in Greek life. It’ll identify potential reasons for this issue, and possible solutions for drinking and drug abuse in Greek systems. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

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Greek Life and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Statistics

The numbers don’t lie. Studies show that there’s quite a lot of drinking and drug abuse in Greek life. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics:

  • 45% of fraternity members who stayed in Greek housing struggled with two more symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • 32.7% of non-residential Greek members exhibited two or more AUD symptoms
  • 64% of fraternity members participated in binge drinking at least 3 times every two weeks
  • 60% of sorority women will drink heavily in comparison to 40% of non-Greek female students
  • 50% of college students with Greek involvement reported doing poorly on a project or a test due to alcohol use

Studies also show that students involved in a fraternity or sorority will be more likely to abuse both illicit and legal drugs. Marijuana, methylphenidate, opioids, ecstasy, and cocaine are all commonly abused drugs.

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What Is Greek Life?

Drug abuse and drinking are prevalent in Greek life in college. Greek life is often associated with social frats. However, this is not necessarily true. It can also include academic fraternities and sororities as well.

Greek life involves being in either a fraternity or a sorority. The word fraternity comes from the Latin word ‘frater’, while the word sorority comes from the Latin word ‘soror’. Frater means brother and soror means sister. These groups started forming in the mid to late 19th century, and were a way for students to socialize and interact with one another.

These groups were first formed for intellectual purposes. They encouraged students to think for themselves. Not surprisingly, students who participated in these groups started to form deeper and stronger relationships with one another. By the end of the 19th century, students who took part in Greek life would also organize parties, dances and more.

Over 9 million Americans are or were members of a fraternity or sorority.”

Over time, Greek life started to represent social frats. This type of Greek life is most common in universities and colleges. Many members of fraternities and sororities will live in fraternity or sorority housing, which is usually on campus.

Those who join a fraternity or a sorority are expected to expect house rules. Each organization may also have their own requirements. For example, most sororities and fraternities will expect members to complete a certain number of volunteer hours every year.

Benefits of Joining a Fraternity or Sorority

According to the American Freshman Survey, about  11% of male and 16% of female freshmen nationwidewould like to join a fraternity or a sorority. Over the past decade, there’s been a rising interest among freshmen and undergraduates to join Greek life.

With so much news coverage on drug and alcohol abuse within the Greek life, is joining a sorority or fraternity a good idea?

85% of the Fortune 500 executives belonged to a fraternity.”

Although members have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), there are many benefits to joining a fraternity or sorority. Some of these benefits include:

  • Healthier mental state and social life. Many freshmen and undergraduates often feel overwhelmed by college life. Students who join a fraternity or a sorority will get more social support. They will usually be paired with a mentor who they can reach out to whenever they feel overwhelmed.
  • Higher graduation rates. 90% of fraternity and sorority members are still enrolled during their senior year. This is a higher rate than the 70% of non-Greek students who are still enrolled.
  • A higher level of engagement in one’s personal and professional life. Fraternities and sororities often connect members with different opportunities in the community. This type of community service will look good on a resume.
  • An ability to network. Greek life can be a great way of expanding one’s network and horizon. Members often meet a diverse group of people.
  • Better grades. Greek life is often linked to higher grades. A study showed that the grade point average for those in a fraternity was 2.912 out of 4 in the 2013-2014 academic year. In comparison, the grade point average for all male students nationwide was just 2.892.

Those who are part of a fraternity and sorority may have a better shot at success. 40 out of 47 U.S. Supreme Court Justices since 1910 were part of a fraternity. 70% of all Congressmen and Senators were also a member of a fraternity.

Why Are Students Who Take Part in Greek Life More Susceptible to Substance Abuse?

Greek members are much more likely to abuse substances than non-Greek members. At this moment, researchers still don’t have concrete evidence that can pinpoint the reasons behind this phenomenon. With that said, many researchers suspect the higher rate of substance abuse is due to these reasons:

  • Group living and social pressure. To join a fraternity or sorority, members must first take a pledge. This pledge makes them more vulnerable to the social pressures that come with being a member. They may feel obligated to drink or do drugs due to peer pressure. This issue is heightened by the fact that most Greek members live in Greek housing or on campus.
  • Lack of parental supervision. For many students, going to college may be their first time away from home. There are no resident assistants or parents at the Greek housing to monitor drinking levels. The leaders are often upperclassmen who are still quite young themselves.
  • Hazing or initiation rituals. Many fraternities and sororities will include some type of hazing as part of their initiation process. Hazing will usually involve alcohol to some extent. It’s not uncommon for hazing to lead to alcohol poisoning.
  • Curiosity and ease of accessibility. It’s often very easy for fraternity and sorority members to get their hands on alcohol and drugs. They see everyone else doing them, and may also participate due to curiosity.
  • The perception of being more fun when drinking or using drugs. Many fraternity and sorority members may feel like they’re more fun when they’re under the influence.

Campus officials may also look the other way when it comes to Greek-sanctioned activities. They may even encourage this culture. Many Greek parties can quickly get out of hand.

A More In-Depth Look at Hazing

Although all but 6 states in America have instituted anti-hazing laws, it’s still possible to find hazing in Greek life. Hazing is any action that intentionally embarrasses, harasses or ridicules members of a group or a team. Hazing can lead to emotional and physical harm. In most cases, it involves alcohol consumption.

Unfortunately, although it’s prohibited and even illegal in many states, 5% of all college studentsadmit to being hazed. 40% of college students admit to knowing about hazing activities.

“Of the 24 fraternity-related freshmen deaths since 2005, 15 happened during recruiting, hazing and initiating events.”

It also doesn’t appear that many club advisors are actively trying to prevent hazing. 40% of students reported that a coach or a club advisor was aware of the hazing, and another 22% reported that the coach or advisor was even involved.



Hazing can often be separated into three distinct categories: subtle, harassment or violent.

Subtle hazing can include requiring new members to perform unnecessary chores or duties or requiring them to perform certain physical exercises and activities, like sit-ups or push-ups. Sleep deprivation is also a form of subtle hazing. Subtle hazing is meant to highlight a power difference between the new members and the current members of the fraternity or sorority.

Harassment hazing includes yelling or screaming at the new members and confining them to a certain space. It can also include acts like having them wear embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing. This type of hazing is meant to frustrate or cause undue stress for new members. Although this behavior is not meant to cause any physical harm, it can cause emotional anguish.

Violent hazing is any action that can cause physical, emotional or psychological harm. It may include capturing or kidnapping new members, compelling them to take part in any sexual activity, or to binge drink and force them to consume liquids or foods. Violent hazing is dangerous and can cause serious consequences.


Hazing can result in drug abuse or alcohol abuse. It may involve substance abuse, or the emotional and psychological damage can cause members to turn to drugs or alcohol. There are many different suggestions on how colleges and universities can prohibit hazing.

Many professionals have come up with a four-point solution to stop hazing. The solutions include:

  • Outlawing liquor at all Greek houses and functions
  • Prohibiting all forms of hazing
  • Extending the rush period, so candidates can get to know their fellow fraternity or sorority members
  • Eliminating pledging completely

These solutions are meant to help reduce the risk of substance abuse in Greek life. They help promote a more positive environment. New members are less likely to feel pressured or to engage in risky activities.


Notable Cases of Greek Life Drug Abuse or Alcohol Abuse in the Media

There’s been a lot of media frenzy in recent years on overdose deaths caused by alcohol at fraternities. Most of these events happened during hazing or initiation rituals. Here are some of the most notable cases in 2017.

Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Pennsylvania State University

One of the first overdose cases to hit the news was of Timothy Piazza. Piazza was a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University and was pledging at Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The day of the hazing, he was encouraged to binge drink large quantities of liquor. Surveillance videos show him falling several times before disappearing near the basement stairs of the fraternity house. There, he plummeted 15 steps before hitting his head and losing consciousness.

Shockingly, the fraternity brothers did little to help him. Although Piazza was in distress for over 12 hours, no one immediately called 9-1-1. Instead, the brothers gathered around him, covered him with blankets and tried to search online for remedies for head injuries.

Unfortunately, their hesitation and inability to seek medical attention for Piazza proved to be fatal.

So, why was the hazing allowed and why was alcohol available? Did anyone know about this gross abuse of alcohol?

What’s shocking is that Beta Theta Pi had applied for a social permit, so they could serve alcohol at the function. This is despite the longstanding ban on alcohol at Penn State University. This means that the counselors were well aware of the drinking.

Piazza drank large quantities of alcohol on February 4 when pledging at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was given 18 drinks in the span of 82 minutes. His blood alcohol content level was as high as 0.36 at one point. This is almost five times the legal limit.

Five members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity were charged with involuntary manslaughter charges, but a Pennsylvania judge threw out all charges. Some members still face charges like alcohol violations, hazing, and conspiracy.

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Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Louisiana State University

In October 2017, Maxwell Gruver, a Louisiana State University freshman, died in an alleged hazing incident that also involved liquor. At the time of his death, Gruver had a blood alcohol level of 0.495. This is nearly 25 times the legal limit for those under the age of 21 in Louisiana. In this state, anyone who is under 21 is considered to be intoxicated if they have a BAC level above 0.02.

Gruver had been called to the Phi Delta Theta house to participate in an initiation ritual known as “Bible Study”. This is where pledges answer questions about the fraternity. With each incorrect answer, pledges are required to drink. With that said, interviews conducted by the LSU police indicated that pledges were forced to drink excess amounts of alcohol.

Pledges were also asked to perform physical tasks. This includes activities like doing wall sits while fraternity members walked across their knees.

By midnight, Gruver was highly intoxicated. The frat brothers laid Gruver down on a couch in the fraternity house. They checked on him throughout the night until around 3 am. Members believed that Gruver had merely passed out from drinking by this time.

No one checked on Gruver from the house between 3 am and 9 am. The next day, when the fraternity members checked on Gruver, he had a weak pulse. They couldn’t tell whether he was breathing or not, so they took him to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

10 members of the fraternity have been charged with hazing. An additional member faces negligent homicide charges.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Florida State University

In November, alcohol poisoning claimed the life of another freshman pledge. Andrew Coffey, age 20, was a pledge of Pi Kappa Phi at Florida State University. Coffey died in a room full of people after an alcohol-filled party.

Coffey had passed out on a couch sometime during the party. Despite there being other people in the room, no one checked on him.

An autopsy showed that Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.447. This is five times the legal driving limit. The autopsy also showed that his BAC level reached up to 0.558 during the party.

When a fellow pledge discovered Coffey had no pulse, he didn’t call 9-1-1 immediately. Instead, the pledge called and texted five other members of the fraternity. This caused an 11-minute delay that may have saved Coffey’s life. This delay shows the fraternity culture. Most members are more concerned with getting out of trouble or saving the fraternity’s representation.

Around the same time, Garrett John Marcy, who is a 20-year-old member of Phi Delta Theta, was charged with cocaine trafficking.

Due to these incidents, Florida State University has indefinitely suspended all sororities and fraternities.

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Texas State University

On November 13, Matthew Ellis, age 20, passed away from alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related causes. Ellis was a Phi Kappa Psi pledge at Texas State University.

He attended an initiation event that encouraged pledges to binge drink. The autopsy found that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.38. This is four times the legal driving limit in Texas. Ellis did not have any drugs in his body.

Following Ellis’ death, Texas State University suspended all Greek organization activities. This marked the fourth overdose death at a college fraternity in America in 2017.


Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs on Campus

Prescription drugs are some of the most commonly abused drugs among fraternity and sorority members. Over 20% of college students have misused prescription drugs. Many college students don’t consider prescription drug abuse as a problem. They may not consider the illicit use of prescription medications, like Ritalin, to be a problem.

Unfortunately, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs. They can often be just as addictive. In fact, Ritalin is a Schedule II Controlled Substance. It’s in the same category as cocaine.

Some of the most commonly abused and misused prescription drugs include:

  • Opioid analgesics, like OxyContin, morphine, and Vicodin. These drugs are meant to provide relief for moderate to severe pain. Greek members may abuse or misuse these drugs in order to get high. This drug is also used for staying up all night. Those who take these prescription opioids will not feel fatigue.
  • Stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin. These prescription drugs are usually used to treat narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Students may misuse these drugs for cognitive enhancement. They may also take them to get high or for an increased libido.
  • Sedatives, like Valium. This drug is meant to help treat insomnia or anxiety. Those who abuse these drugs do it to feel more relaxed or for the euphoria that comes with it.

It’s easy for many Greek members to get their hands on prescription medications. They may be able to get the drugs from their fellow brothers and sisters. Many Greek members may feel compelled to share their prescription medications due to the Greek culture.


Substance Abuse Warning Signs

It’s easy for fraternity brothers and sorority sisters to develop a drug or alcohol addiction. Many of these people often don’t even realize what’s happening. There’s a fine line between recreational use and addiction.

Often times, the addiction starts off with just recreational use. As the user develops a tolerance to the drug, he or she also slowly becomes physically and chemically dependent on it.

Here are some warning signs of substance abuse to look out for:

  • Experiencing memory blackouts.
  • Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior.
  • Having to drink or use drugs to feel ‘normal’.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at school in order to use drugs or drink.
  • Attempting, but being unable to quit drinking or using drugs.
  • Facing legal consequences from misusing drugs or binge drinking.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, insomnia, and profuse sweating, when attempting to stop or quit.
  • Having to drink more or use more drugs to achieve the same effects.
  • Drinking more than intended.
  • Being approached by family and friends about your drinking or drug use habits.
  • Feeling depressed without drugs or alcohol.
  • Having to drink or use drugs the first thing in the morning.
  • Feeling anxious or depressed when there’s no alcohol or drugs around.

The key to conquering an addiction is admitting that you have a problem. You must be willing to admit that your drug or alcohol use has gotten out of hand, and that it’s time to reach out for help.

If you know someone who is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, it’s time to stage an intervention. Don’t watch their addiction spiral further out of control. It will only get worse with time.

How to Avoid Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you’re part of a fraternity or a sorority, it’s easy to fall into the trap of drug abuse or alcohol abuse. After all, it seems like everyone around you is drinking or using drugs. You might feel like you’re not a fun person if you don’t participate as well.

To avoid becoming a statistic, try the following:

  • Know how much alcohol is enough. Be aware of the alcohol content in each type of beverage. Male students should drink less than 4 drinks, and female students should drink no more than 3 drinks in a single day. Male students should drink no more than 14 drinks per week, and female students should limit their alcohol intake to no more than 7 drinks a week. Watch your alcohol intake to avoid an overdose.
  • Pace your drinking. Avoid shotgunning beer or taking multiple shots within the span of several minutes.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Your body will absorb liquor much quicker if you haven’t eaten.
  • Alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks to slow down your drinking. This also gives your body more time to metabolize the alcohol.
  • Avoid drug or drinking cues and learn how to say no. Don’t feel bad turning down a game of beer bong or a fraternity member asking you to use drugs.
  • Ask for help. If you’re aware that you’re in trouble, ask for help.

Drug and alcohol abuse come with varying levels of consequences. It may be something as minor as a “walk of shame” after drinking too much, or saying something embarrassing, or it can be something as serious as expulsion, arrest or even death.

Don’t be afraid to cut down on your drinking. Avoid doing drugs. There’s a fine line between recreational use and addiction.


Get Help for Substance Abuse

Many people are under the false belief that they can control and manage their drug or alcohol use. They fail to see the situation for what it is. They may be in denial due to fear, embarrassment or shame.

If you notice that you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse, it’s time to take action. Don’t let the addiction spiral further out of control. It’ll only get worse. Reach out to family, friends or a professional for help. You may need addiction treatment depending on the severity of your addiction.

The addiction will take control over your life. It’ll prevent you from doing your best in school, and may even follow you into adulthood. It may interfere with the rest of your life and prevent you from living your best life.

Amethyst Recovery Center offers a wide variety of different treatment programs and options. We treat a wide variety of addictions, and will personalize each treatment plan to meet the needs of each patient. We offer special addiction recovery programs that can help you get your life back on the right track.

Our addiction specialists are available 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. Come to us with any questions or concerns that you may have. We can even verify your private insurance information to see what type of coverage you have. If you’re still in school, we may be able to work around your schedule or recommend a treatment program that won’t interfere with your education. We’ll help you figure out whether you need an inpatient program or whether an outpatient program will work.

24/7 Help for Drug & Alcohol Use

If you or someone you love is suffering from the addiction, there is no reason to delay. Start working on a solution today. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our staff are trained to deal with drug and alcohol problems of any kind, and will recommend the right treatment for you based on your situation. Call now!

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