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UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies (BCAS) is one of 20 national Alcohol Research Centers funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). BCAS faculty members conduct groundbreaking scientific research and are invited to speak at national and international conferences, and several have received NIH MERIT and Career Awards.

For more than 35 years,BCAS has been a leader in the search for the causes and prevention of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and has worked to improve intervention and treatment for alcohol abuse and AUD. Significant contributions of BCAS include:

  • Published several hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles related to ARC activities, most with multiple faculty.
  • Discovered that ethanol induces a novel neuroimmune cascade involving Toll-like receptors (TLR) and the endogenous TLR agonist HMGB1 in rodent brain that is found in human post-mortem AUD brain.
  • Discovered that ethanol activates protein kinase Cy regulating GABAa receptor cell surface trafficking and synaptic inhibition.
  • Discovered that ethanol, stress, and cytokines share common behavioral pathologies and sensitize ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety.
  • Discovered that pCaMKII is a key kinase in promoting alcohol self-administration and relapse.
  • Discovered that multiple genes are induced due to alteration in key signaling pathways in a variety of different tissues and brain regions by ethanol.
  • Discovered that brain dysmorphology mimics facial dysmorphology in models of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
  • Discovered that naltrexone activates the human frontal cortex.
  • Discovered that dopamine transients regulate attention and motivation and contribute to habit formation.
  • The development of a simple and highly effective diagnostic tool, known as the CAGE Questionnaire, to identify AUD without putting people on the defensive or prompting denial. For more than 40 years, the CAGE has been taught to medical students, physicians and other health care professionals. It has been utilized in many health care settings around the world. The Center for Alcohol Studies continues to train health care professionals to diagnose AUD and to detect alcohol abuse.
  • Contributions in the discovery of medications which can reduce relapse rates by turning off the brain’s reward center to reduce craving. More than a decade after the Center’s first studies in this area, ReVia (naltrexone) was given FDA approval — the first drug approved for the treatment of alcoholism since Antabuse. The Center for Alcohol Studies is dedicated to improving treatment outcomes for people with AUD.


The Center is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to develop the next generation of addiction medicine researchers. Center faculty train future physicians, dentists, pharmacists and researchers in the identification, prevention, and treatment of substance abuse and AUD. Training for our scientists includes programs in basic laboratory science, addiction biology, neuropharmacology, alcohol-related liver disease, alcohol-related birth defects, clinical research, and substance abuse treatment therapy.


The Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies is dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse, alcohol use disorder, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders through education and advocacy. BCAS faculty developed curricula for NC educators to use in teaching the effects of alcohol. Additionally, faculty serve on state and national organizations involved in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and abuse-related congenital disorders. Faculty advise state legislators regarding drunk driving laws, treatment for the state prison population, and other substance abuse-related matters.

Educational speakers are available for civic, social and community organizations.

Alcohol use disorder, substance abuse, chemical dependence, alcohol-related congenital disorders, and liver and brain damage are preventable diseases.

To learn more about how you can support our work, please call our center at 919-966-5678 or visit our donations page.