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Why Greek life too often leads to drug problems for college kids

If your child is hoping to join a fraternity or sorority this year, they're more likely to be around drugs and alcohol than if they didn't become part of Greek life. They may start out "just" drinking, but excessive drinking often leads to taking drugs and doing other risky things a young person would never consider while sober.

College students in sororities and fraternities are more likely to use drugs, binge drink and engage in other high-risk behavior than their "non-Greek" peers. However, young men in fraternities are more likely to do so than sorority women. Often, the level of peer pressure is higher. White college men are most at risk, statistically, of engaging in dangerous drug and alcohol use and having substance abuse problems.

What is it about Greek life that makes it a potential breeding ground for drug and alcohol abuse? There are several key factors:

Hazing rituals

Fraternities and sororities usually have some type of initiation ritual for new members. Hazing, in particular, often involves forcing new pledges to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol or engage in other risky activities. There have been a number of high-profile fraternity hazing deaths in recent years.

Peer pressure

Kids join fraternities and sororities because they want to belong to a group. This can make them vulnerable to doing what the leaders tell them to do or to join in behavior like using drugs and drinking to show that they belong. If they live in a fraternity or sorority house, it's harder to escape that pressure. Moreover, the people in charge of these houses are kids themselves and may not be the best role models.

Lack of discipline by college administrators

Too often, colleges give fraternities and sororities a wide berth when it comes to social activities. These groups can bring considerable money and prestige to a school. Therefore, they may look the other way when they should be exercising discipline.

Local law enforcement officials may not be so lenient if they catch a college student using or possessing illegal drugs or even prescription drugs that don't belong to them. A conviction for a drug-related crime can derail a young person's college education and follow them well past college. If your son or daughter has been charged with a drug crime, it's essential not to let them go through the legal system alone.

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