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Substance Abuse and Greek Life: A Growing Problem in North Carolina

- 4 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

When someone imagines the culture of college universities, they almost always think of fraternities and greek life. In fact, fraternities are typically as old as the college itself. Typically, college students seek to join a fraternity in search of leadership, connections to network with established businessmen, and social interaction. Oftentimes, you will hear stories of fraternity brothers graduating college and becoming CEOs of major companies, doctors, lawyers, and even U.S. presidents.

However, fraternities have a dark side as well. Unfortunately, the culture of greek life has shifted its focus from success to partying in many cases. Binge drinking and alcoholism in college have become especially common across America. Additionally, being a member of a fraternity involves a sense of brotherhood and dependence, causing new members to feel pressured to impress their older peers. When you mix peer pressure with a strong desire to please one another, it’s not difficult to imagine how the environment of a fraternity could foster serious issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse.

Let’s take a look at substance abuse and greek life, as well as how this culture has impacted fraternity brothers in North Carolina.

Are Fraternities Positive for College Students?

While fraternities typically display the professional success of their past-members, there are aspects of greek life that are less talked about. Leadership, success, and personal achievement is possible to gain through memberships in a fraternity, however, there are negative effects of belonging to this type of group.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, fraternities are not always as they seem. Let’s take a look at some statistics:[1]

  • It has been found that 50% of fraternity members perform poorly when compared to their peers.
  • Each year, over 500,000 fraternity brothers report unintentional injuries.
  • Unfortunately, 600,000 fraternity members commit an assault or become victims of an assault.
  • Each year, 70,000 cases of sexual assault occur in fraternity houses.
  • Nearly 1,400 members of a fraternity die from alcohol-related causes every year.
  • While 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault or attempted rape each year, 2 in 5 sorority sisters experience sexual assault per year.
  • Lastly, fraternity brothers commit acts of sexual assault or rape at a rate of 300% more than their non-fraternity classmates.

With that being said, fraternities may provide young men with a shot at success and connections in high places. However, there is much more hiding behind the scenes of fraternity houses. With a combination of drugs, alcohol, and criminal sexual activity, greek life on college campuses is beginning to show its true colors.

An Overview of North Carolina Fraternities and Substance Abuse

Everyone has seen the depiction of fraternities and sororities in TV shows and movies. Typically, a scene will begin at a fraternity house, displaying a huge party filled with copious amounts of drugs, alcohol, and unsafe sex. While people usually expect a movie to be dramatized and lacking reality, many real-life fraternities mirror the Hollywood image.

According to officials in North Carolina, three fraternities were recently involved in a drug-trafficking ring.

“Fraternity members at North Carolina’s flagship school were part of a drug trafficking ring that for years funneled huge quantities of drugs into three college campuses, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Twenty-one people have been charged in connection to the ring following an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Greensboro said in a news release.”[2]

Unfortunately, a century-year old tradition that is thought to help young men succeed, has led to the destruction of 21 college student’s lives. According to the article, these fraternity chapters were involved in trafficking more than a half-ton of marijuana, several hundred kilograms of cocaine, and significant amounts of other substances. Officials shared that the fraternity was sending these drugs from their college to other colleges across North Carolina.[2]

This quote from U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin accurately represents the dangers of substance abuse and greek life in North Carolina;

“I want to make it very clear: This is not the situation where you have single users — where you have a 19-year-old sipping a beer or you have someone who is taking a puff of a joint on the back porch of a frat house. These are 21 hardened drug dealers.”[2]

Fraternities and Greek Life: A Perfect Storm for Substance Abuse

This leads to the question, what makes fraternities the perfect environment for substance abuse and addiction to develop? Well, multiple factors come together to play a part in the creation of such an environment, including peer pressure, partying, hazing, initiation, companionship, solidarity, and much more. Because of these factors, fraternity houses become a melting pot of bad decisions, poor judgment, and substance abuse.

Additionally, individuals who already have issues with substance abuse often seek out fraternities and sororities, as they know substance abuse is acceptable behavior in the culture of greek life. While fraternity chapters typically do not seek out to perpetuate cycles of substance abuse and addiction, they currently are not doing much to stop it.

Let’s take a look at how fraternities can end the cycle of substance abuse and addiction in greek life.

How to Break the Cycle of Substance Abuse in Greek Life

To begin, fraternities and sororities must create a drug-free culture among their chapters. For example, the University of California at Berkeley decided to ban alcohol and drugs from fraternity houses in 2010. Other colleges have decided to incorporate alcohol prevention and treatment programs into their environment, allowing individuals with substance abuse issues to seek help.

If you or a loved one have become victim to the culture of substance abuse in greek life, Carolina Recovery Center can help. With a combination of evidence-based addiction treatment modalities, trauma therapy, and unconditional support, our addiction treatment center will get you back on track in your college courses. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.