Students who are victims of college hazing may experience shame, peer pressure, depression, and anxiety and use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

According to many experts, college hazing has emerged as a serious health challenge. The practices include humiliating, dangerous, or abusive activities that a student must partake in before joining a group such as a sports team, club, or organization. While hazing is typically associated with varsity sports and Greek life, it can be a part of initiation into other groups to which students can belong on college campuses. Unfortunately, hazing in college can have serious consequences, including drug addiction. 

What is Hazing in College?

You may be wondering, “What is hazing in college?” The research shows that humiliation and isolation, as well as subjecting students to sleep deprivation and sexual activity, are widespread forms of college hazing. Hazing may also involve forcing victims to consume alcohol as part of a misguided “tradition” that clouds clear thinking about the dangers of the activity.  

Types of Hazing in Frats & Sororities

Hazing is common in frats and sororities, with one study finding that among different college groups, hazing was highly prevalent in social frats and sororities. In fact, 70 percent of students indicated that they experienced hazing when joining such a group or maintaining membership in the group. 

According to the study, types of hazing in frats and sororities include the following:

  • Taking part in drinking games or drinking until ill or passed out 
  • Singing alone in public 
  • Performing sexual acts or watching others have sex
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Being dropped off in a strange location
  • Acting as a servant
  • Being screamed at or sworn at by other members
  • Being subjected to sleep deprivation or awakened at night 

Among the different types of hazing in frats and sororities, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, participating in drinking games, and singing in public are still among the most common activities. Over half of students report being made to take part in drinking games, and about a third indicate they have been made to drink excessively or sing in public. 

The Dark Side: College Hazing Statistics

Unfortunately, college hazing statistics indicate that this behavior can have grave consequences, including death. According to news reports, 77 fraternity members have died since 2005, and hazing death statistics show that alcohol is to blame for 82 percent of fatal hazing incidents. Furthermore, at least one student dies each year as a result of hazing. 

Hazing deaths on college campuses have recently caught media attention. One notable case occurred at Penn State University in 2017, involving a 19-year-old male fraternity member who suffered a traumatic brain injury and died after being encouraged to consume 18 alcoholic beverages over the course of 82 minutes. After the death, 26 fraternity members were charged criminally. 

The dark side of college hazing includes more than just fatalities. College hazing statistics show that sexual assault can also be a consequence of this degrading practice. According to Babson College, between 6 and 9 percent of women participating in NCAA sports indicate they have been victims of sexual hazing, which can include sexual harassment, sexual assault, or being forced to simulate certain sexual acts. 

How Hazing on College Campuses Contributes to Student Substance Abuse

There is a dark side to college hazing, and unfortunately, hazing on college campuses can contribute to substance abuse in college students. Beyond the fact that hazing often involves alcohol consumption which can become an addiction, there are other risk factors associated with hazing that can lead to substance abuse:

  • Rape & Sexual Assault: As the statistics indicate, college sexual assault is involved in some hazing incidents. Students who suffer a sexual assault as a result of hazing may be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. For example, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the research shows that 80 percent of sexual assaults among college students involve a victim who is alcohol-impaired. Alcohol abuse and sexual assault can therefore occur together. In addition, experts report that people may abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with being sexually assaulted.
  • Injuries: College hazing rituals can involve injuries, as statistics show that among female college athletes, about 10 percent are subjected to physical hazing, which can include being beaten or thrown in water. Traumatic injuries caused by hazing practices can necessitate prescription pain medications for some students. Those who take pain medications may become addicted over time. 
  • Peer Pressure: College sorority hazing can involve peer pressure, which may influence students to consume excessive amounts of alcohol or use drugs. For example, if a student wants to be accepted into a sorority, she may drink large quantities of alcohol during a hazing ritual to fit in with the rest of the group. Over time, this can lead to alcohol abuse and addiction. 
  • Depression & Anxiety: Students who are humiliated, isolated, or sworn to secrecy as a result of hazing may suffer from depression and anxiety. Problems with mental health and addictions often occur together, and students who are struggling with depression or anxiety may develop substance use disorders if they use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. 

Initiating Safe College Bonding Practices to Reduce Long-Term Impact

The consequences of college hazing can be serious and involve substance abuse and addiction. Students may abuse drugs and alcohol during hazing rituals or use these substances to cope with the effects of hazing. 

Students should include alternatives to hazing, which can include group bonding activities that are safe and do not humiliate students who wish to join a sports team, Greek organization, or club. For example, games, dances or movie nights can be promoted as team bonding activities, instead of dangerous, humiliating hazing activities.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of college hazing and is experiencing struggles with substance abuse as a result, The Recovery Village has locations around the country and a team of caring professionals ready to assist you on your treatment journey. Reach out to the admissions department today to begin the recovery process.

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Editor – Daron Christopher
Daron Christopher is an experienced speechwriter, copywriter and communications consultant based in Washington, DC. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

Allen, Elizabeth, and Madden, Mary. “Hazing in view: College students at risk.” National Study of Student Hazing, March 11, 2008. Accessed August 11, 2019.

Gajilan, A. Chris. “Greek life more popular than ever, de[…]versy and deaths.” CNN, December 8, 2018. Accessed August 12, 2019.

Stetson University. “Facts and myths.”  Accessed August 12, 2019.

Babson College. “Important hazing statistics.” 2019. Accessed August 12, 2019.

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. “Substance use and sexual violence.”  2018. Accessed August 12, 2019.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Dual diagnosis.” August 2017. Accessed August 12, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.