Fraternities: The Prevalence of Drug Use

Man struggling with substance abuse and in need of medication-assisted treatment

Blog Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

The Greek-letter life can make up a significant portion of the college experience for many individuals. While joining fraternities may not be for everyone, it is a long-standing tradition that has been established within the college community for promoting “brotherhood”, fellowship, community, and a sense of belonging.

Modern fraternities on college campuses have become remarkably dynamic in the United States, with appeals to many aspects of life, such as professional, social, and service involvement.

Fraternities Have Many Great Benefits

College fraternities can be an excellent platform for young men to develop:

  • Lifelong friendships
  • Leadership skills
  • Exposure to many character development opportunities

Be Aware of the Problems with the Greek Community

In the same token, some socialization activities associated with certain fraternities can involve behaviors that contradict the ideals founded by fraternity life. One such concern is the use of drugs within Greek-life organizations.

While fraternities do not condone substance abuse, many social activities promoted through their organization may ensue in the use of or experimentation with drugs or alcohol.

A 2007 study publishing in the Psychology of Addictive Behavior found that fraternity membership is a major predictor of alcohol and drug abuse, with individuals wanting to use drugs or drink more likely to join fraternities [1]. Researchers concluded that Greek membership can further exacerbate substance abuse through active and passive social influences [1].

A similar study completed by the University of Michigan found that drug abuse rates were higher among fraternity members than students who did not participate in Greek-life [2]. This same study also found that annual marijuana use increased significantly with age among fraternity members compared to that of non-members [2].

Increasing Awareness of Drug Use in Fraternities

The findings from these studies are important in increasing awareness about the culture that may be created within a fraternity organization. A young man may participate in Greek-life with intentions of reaping the many benefits offered through fraternities, but social influences can give rise to potential issues with drug use.

As college-aged men who participate in Greek-life are essentially at risk for alcohol and drug misuse, college administration and staff overseeing fraternity organizations might consider prevention and intervention strategies that can help support this population. With fraternity organizations having many benefits to offer to their members, intervention measures that seek to prevent substance abuse can be helpful in maintaining the foundations and intentions of Greek-life.


[1]: Capone, Christy; Wood, Mark; Borsari, Brian; Laird, Robert. Fraternity and Sorority Involvement, Social Influences, and Alcohol Use Among College Students: A Prospective Examination. Psychol Addict Behav. Sept 2007, 21(3): 316-327.

[2]: McCabe SE, et al. Selection and socialization effects of fraternities and sororities on US college student substance use: a multi-cohort national longitudinal study. Addiction 205 Apr; 100(4): 512-24.