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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Beer-Swilling Frat Boys May Just Be Products of Their Environment

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"If you do drink, there are ways of minimizing the harm associated with it, such as avoiding situations with a high risk for injury like drinking and driving or drinking while camping, where people go and try to find a site in the dark and fall off a cliff," he says.

Certain kinds of drinking situations are high risk for sexual assault and date rape. Often in these cases, "both the perpetrator and the victim are drinking, and often both individuals have some difficulty sending and decoding subtle nonverbal messages," he explains.

The take-home message for Greek and non-Greek college students and alumni is to be aware of these traps -- and avoid them. Exactly why Greeks drink more than non-Greeks is not 100% clear, Sher says. There may be a predisposition to alcohol use among people who join the Greek system or a stronger norm for drinking in these settings.

"People who live in Greek houses tend to perceive peers as drinking more heavily and approving of drinking more heavily," he says.

This makes sense to Gregg B. Golub, a 35-year-old executive at a New York City-based garment firm who was a member of a fraternity when he attended Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. "To put it bluntly, I did not drink before Greek life," he tells WebMD. "In school, I drank heavily every day. Now, I still drink heavily, but only on occasions."

Golub says he does not blame fraternity membership for any of his habits. "If anything, it was a facilitator for the activation of behaviors that were inherently part of my nature, as opposed to the root cause," he says.

In recent years, due to hazing incidents and alcohol-related problems, there has been a crackdown on the Greek system.

"There have been changes on campuses with alcohol bans, and we have not been tracking that. But a local newspaper did a study showing that arrests for drinking and driving are up, suggesting that alcohol bans on campus are encouraging people to leave the campus to drink," Sher says.

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