This article presents the proceedings of a symposium at the 2001 Research Society on Alcoholism Meeting in Montreal, Canada. The cochairs were Paul J. Gruenewald and Marcia Russell. The focus of the symposium was on mathematical, methodological, and statistical approaches to the assessment of drinking patterns from short (daily and monthly) to very long periods (the life course) of time. The research presented in the symposium argues that (1) model‐based approaches to analyzing drinking patterns can provide comprehensive bases for assessing drinking risks, (2) data acquisition technologies that track daily drinking over long periods of time can illuminate unique features of drinking associated with abuse and dependence, and (3) retrospective data can be used to assess life‐course trajectories of drinking associated with chronic problem outcomes. Each of the presentations points toward an integrated approach to understanding acute and chronic risks related to alcohol use. The presentations were (1) Mathematical models of current drinking, by Paul J. Gruenewald and Fred Johnson; (2) Mathematical models of drinking problems, by John Light and Rob Lipton; (3) Patterns of drinking ascertained from daily data aggregated across 24 months, by John Searles; and (4) Cognitive lifetime drinking histories and natural histories of drinking, by Marcia Russell, Paul J. Gruenewald, Fred Johnson, Maurizio Trevisan, Jo Freudenheim, Paola Muti, Ann Marie Carosella, and Thomas H. Nochajski.