Interventions Ineffective in Reducing Drinking Among Fraternities

Not even interventions can keep college fraternity members from consuming alcohol, according to a Brown University report.

The meta-analysis, published in Health Psychology, included 25 years of research, more than 6,000 Greek-letter students and 21 different interventions. The results surprised researchers.

“Current intervention methods appear to have limited effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among fraternity and possibly sorority members,” said lead researcher Lori Scott-Sheldon, of The Miriam Hospital and Brown University, in a press release.

The sessions were often 50 minutes long and delivered in groups. Most meetings involved alcohol education and strategies for reducing consumption. Nearly half addressed high-risk situations while nearly 40 percent allowed for feedback.

Eighteen percent of participants were women.

In specific situations, alcohol consumption declined after intervention. However, in most cases, consumption remained steady or increased.

Scott-Sheldon believes a culture that endorses alcohol use makes successful interventions more difficult. She says stronger interventions are necessary for fraternity members.

Charles O’Brien, founding director of the Center for the Studies of Addiction at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC News that education and policy changes could make a difference.

For example, the University of Pennsylvania enforced an alcohol policy that included fraternities and sororities. O’Brien says the university has not had the same severe alcohol-related problems since its implementation.

He believes universities nationwide should follow suit.

“It’s really ridiculous. Officials say, ‘alcohol and drugs.’ Alcohol is a drug just as much as cocaine,” O’Brien told NBC News. “I can rattle off a list of students who died from an alcohol overdose, or even worse, who killed other people with their cars.”

The statistics back up this statement. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries. More than 150,000 develop alcohol-related health problems.

College Drinking Epidemic

Alcohol consumption is common among college students, especially within fraternities.

Nearly 80 percent of college students drink alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. About half of those students binge drink.

According to a Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol study, nearly 75 percent of students living in a fraternity or sorority house were heavy drinkers.

Another study, published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, found Greek organizations exhibit higher levels of alcohol use and problems than other college students. These problems include low grades, physical altercations, reduced productivity and automobile accidents.

It also revealed five factors that contribute to heavy alcohol use among the group:

  • Continued heavy alcohol use from high school to college
  • Choosing to take part in heavy drinking environments
  • The central role that alcohol plays in fraternity houses
  • Misconceptions of drinking norms and dangers
  • The enabling environment of the fraternity house

Hollywood, too, could be a factor. Movies such as “Animal House,” “Old School,” and “Neighbors” feature heavy drinking among Greek organizations. Numerous TV shows and songs also glamorize college drinking.

The consequences of heavy drinking are real.

Each year, alcohol consumption leads to:

  • More than 690,000 student assaults.
  • More than 97,000 college students sexually assaulted.
  • Nearly 600,000 unintentional injuries to students.
  • Poor academic performances for roughly 25 percent of students.

Today, many students concentrate on the immediate effects of alcohol rather than the long-term consequences. O’Brien believes a collective effort must be made to change this culture.

“Basically kids can be very smart but ignorant about alcohol as a drug,” O’Brien told NBC News. “Clearly we have to make an effort. So many students are dying and not just overdoses, but from falling out of windows and from auto accidents.”

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