Vitality

Interventions Do Nothing To Solve The Binge Drinking Problem Among Greek Life College Students

binge drinking
We need to find a new way to approach dangerous drinking among college fraternity members. OLI SCARFF / Stringer/Getty

Hollywood may have glamorized the alcohol-fueled lifestyle of American college students in a fraternity and sorority, but in reality these students often have extreme drinking habits that are very dangerous. Unfortunately, it seems that the very community that helps promote these drinking behaviors also prevents these students from properly recognizing the danger of their behaviors. According to a new study, alcohol intervention programs traditionally used to help individuals address their dangerous drinking behaviors are completely ineffective on student members of Greek letter organizations.

The average college student isn’t old enough to drink alcohol, but, as research shows, it takes a lot more than a federal law to stop teens and twenty-year-olds from finding a way to party. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the most commonly used drug among American youth, and these young people aren’t just having one beer to wash down their dinner. According to the CDC, as much as 90 percent of alcohol consumed by teens is in the form of binge drinking.

Adults aren’t just trying to stop young people from having a “good time.” Binge drinking comes with a number of serious health consequences, and while the behavior is not recommended for individuals of any age, it’s especially dangerous among young people whose brains are still forming. One 2015 study found that binge drinking at a young age could have a negative long-lasting impact on memory and other cognitive functions.

Recently, researchers from Brown University and The Miriam Hospital in Providence Rhode Island conducted an analysis of studies from 1987 to 2014 in order to better understand the effectiveness of alcohol interventions for Greek Letter Organizations. Eventually the team narrowed down their search specifically looked at 15 studies investigating 21 different interventions involving 6,026 members of fraternities and sororities (only 18 percent of the individuals were female).

Results revealed disheartening news: It seems that so far, no method designed to reduce drinking among Greek letter students actually worked. In fact, according to the study, alcohol interventions designed to reduce alcohol use among fraternity members are no more effective than no intervention at all. Student who received an intervention consumed just as much alcohol, just as often, and just as heavily as those who did not attend the intervention. In some cases, alcohol consumption even increased after the intervention, the study revealed.

Current approaches to reduce alcohol consumption and problems among fraternity, and possibly sorority members, have limited effectiveness,” Dr. Lori Scott-Sheldon, lead researcher involved with the study, told Medical Daily. “We need to refine or develop new interventions that work better for these students.”

It doesn’t seem that students in fraternities and sororities are more stubborn than other students. Rather, the study suggests that because alcohol plays such a central role in the Greek social  environment, it may be more difficult for members of these organizations to change their behavior patterns than it is for other students.

Ultimately, the study concluded that members of fraternities and sororities are not unreachable, but rather require a different strategy. For now, however, it’s important to conduct additional research on the Greek life drinking habits, and to do our best to help keep these young people safe if and when they do decide to have a few too many.

“Colleges should review policies that address concerns about the safety of fraternity and sorority members as well as non-members and reinforce expectations for respecting the campus community,” suggested Scott-Sheldon. “Greek leaders should also be engaged in campus health promotion initiatives, making sure that they have a place at the table and an opportunity to be part of the solution. “

Source: Scott-Sheldon LA, Carey KB, Kaiser TS, Knight JM, Carey MP. Alcohol Interventions for Greek Letter Organizations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 1987 to 2014. Health Psychology . 2016

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