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About CAS


“The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS) has conducted 4 national surveys involving over 14,000 students at 120 four-year colleges in 40 states in 1993, 1997, 1999, and 2001. The schools and students selected for the study provide a nationally representative sample. In addition, CAS colleges with high levels of heavy alcohol use were resurveyed in 2005.  CAS has been supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The CAS has identified binge drinking and the secondhand effects it produces, the harms binge drinkers inflict on other students. The study defines binge drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more for women at least once in the past two weeks. 

The CAS examines key issues in college alcohol abuse, including the tradition of heavy drinking on college campuses, the role of fraternities and sororities and athletics, the relationship of state alcohol control measures and college policies to this behavior, and the role that easy access to alcohol and low prices play. The study also provides a continuing look at other high risk behaviors among college students including tobacco and illicit drug use, unsafe sex, violence and other behavioral, social, and health problems confronting today's American college students. 

CAS researchers have collaborated with researchers at other institutions, from other countries, and from other disciplines and have published more than 80 articles in peer-reviewed public health, medical, social science, educational, and economic journals. These studies are the most widely cited in the field and have been featured in numerous radio, television and newspaper reports, including CNN, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Nightline, Good Morning America, ESPN, National Public Radio, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, US News and World Report, Sports Illustrated, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Since the release of the first report in 1994, binge drinking has captured national media attention and increased public awareness of what the US Surgeon General called “the most serious public health problem on American college campuses today.”  This recognition has led to:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General's establishment of a national goal to reduce college binge drinking by 50% as part of the "Goals for the Nation" for the year 2010;
  • The National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) establishment of a Task Force on College Drinking to make recommendations about the problem;
  • NIAAA adoption of the 5/4 definition of binge drinking: where "A ëbinge' is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours. Binge drinking is clearly dangerous for the drinker and for society." "Dr. Ting-Kai Li, Director of NIAAA, indicated that, "excessive alcohol use by college-aged individuals in the U.S. is a significant source of harm."
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annual measures of binge drinking in its state-by-state reports. The annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey coordinated by the CDC has recommended changing its measure of binge drinking from a 5-drink standard to a gender-specific measure of 5 drinks for males and 4 drinks for females;
  • The World Health Organization recommendation to use a 5-drink measure for conducting surveillance research on alcohol use;
  • The U.S. Senate (sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-DE) and the House of Representatives (sponsored by Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-MA) passage of resolutions calling on college presidents to address college binge drinking;
  • Sen. Michael DeWine (R-OH) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT)'s introduction of legislation in February 2003 to combat the issue of underage drinking and drug use on college campuses and universities by encouraging states to work together in creating statewide coalitions among colleges and surrounding communities.
  • A U.S. House of Representative resolution (sponsored by Rep. Thomas Osborne, R-NE) to discourage alcohol use by underage students and other young fans by ending alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of collegiate sporting events
Fact of the Month
CAS Highlights

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