When most people think of American fraternities, they think of hard drinking, drug-infested parties, the likes of which you’d see in the movies. They think of underage kids running amuck on college campuses, drunk on their newfound freedoms, spending their mom and dad’s money getting wasted on the weekends. They think of strange hazing rituals that result in hospital stays and they image rampant substance abuse and declining GPAs. While all of this may sound very stereotypical, and it may sound like I am attempting to typecast fraternities, the reality is that what I just described isn’t far from the truth.
It is no secret that many college fraternities throughout the United States are known for their over-indulgence in alcohol and illicit substances. While over the past 5 to 10 years many fraternities have attempted to clean up their act, or at least attempted to clean up their public persona, there still seems to be an overall culture of drug and alcohol abuse prevalent in many American fraternities.
Part of the reason for this is because the conditions of the fraternity promote this type of dangerous behavior. Firstly, many of the members of the fraternities are for the first times in their life living away from home, and away from parental supervision. This means that there is no one to watch over them and so they are allowed to indulge in whatever type of behaviors they want. For many of these students, this means that they will push their own limits and start to abuse substances and drink to excess. This isn’t just conjecture but is backed by a Harvard University study, which found that 4 out of 5 fraternity members were binge drinkers. It is interesting though because this same study found that among the rest of the university population that was surveyed only 2 out of 5 non-fraternity students participated in binge drinking. Which seems to show that there is something about fraternity life that either causes an increase in substance abuse and binge drinking, or entices people to join who have a predisposition towards substance abuse. More than the likely it is a bit both, as fraternities have a reputation of being places where a person can indulge in drugs and alcohol, so a person who wants to participate in these types of behaviors will be more apt to join, and the communal living aspect of a fraternity promotes peer pressure and groupthink towards these types of behaviors.
With that said, there are many alternatives to this sort of fraternity drug fueled lifestyle for the American college student, and as more and more people are getting sober at an earlier age, more collegiate recovery programs have become available. Just like we are changing the way that we talk about addiction in 2016 hopefully more and more we can encourage the changes on college campuses to encourage a healthier approach.
For instance throughout the country there are a number of universities who offer sober dorms, so that people who are either in recovery, or who just don’t wish to be surrounded by a bunch of drunk and high people can seek refuge. Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey was one of the first colleges in the United States to offer such a program and almost three decades later this sober housing option is still going strong. The college has supported this program since its inception and finds it to be an important part of their collegiate programming, as it offers the support necessary for students who are attempting to keep their sobriety intact, in an environment where drinking and drugging is often times glorified.
There is also the Association of Recovery in Higher Education whose mission is to “empower Collegiate Recovery Programs and professionals to support students in recovery.” ARHE supports Collegiate Recovery programs on over 100 college campuses throughout the country. They help CRPs get established within their collegiate communities so that they can begin to promote a culture of abstinence and recovery for students who need that extra support while they are away at school. They offer counseling services for students who may have questions about their drinking or using, and they offer a wide network of fellow students who have found the path of recovery and wish to give back to those in need of help.
The latter is probably the most important thing that CRPs offer, because very often the best person to help a fellow addict, or potential addict, in their time of need is someone who has already been through what they are going through. The students who are involved in the CRPs are all in recovery themselves and they can speak to, on an intimate level, the struggles that come with being sober, in your 20s, while attending college.
Such collegiate recovery programs as the ones offered by the ARHE are important to the college experience because they help to offset some of the party atmosphere that most college campuses are known for. They offer a safe haven for students who want to pursue their higher education but do not want to get caught up in the messy quagmire of drugs and alcohol, and they create a sense of community for people who have found recovery, but still want to interact with kids their own age.
So while substance abuse will probably continue to flourish in American fraternities for years to come, at least at this point our college campuses are addressing the larger issue of binge drinking and substance abuse and offering services for students who want help. I personally believe that as we become more and more aware of the damage that substance abuse has wrought upon this nation, we will see more services available for people who need help, and there will be a larger culture of abstinence than we currently see today.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.