Supporting Legal Drinking Age of 21 "Most Regrettable" Decision of His Career Says Alcohol Expert and Former Official

Dr. Morris Chafetz, founding director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), was an influential member of the presidential commission that recommended raising the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) to 21 back in the early 1980s.

Dr. Chafetz says he reluctantly supported the recommendation but that "legal age 21 has not worked." Many people assert that the law has been effective because drunk driving fatalities have dropped among those under the age of 21. However, alcohol expert Chafetz points out that "they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States."

Dr. Chafetz stresses that the law has resulted in "collateral, off-road damage" including such things as binge drinking, injury, and property destruction.

The former NIAAA director says that supporting the minimum legal drinking age of 21 was "the single most regrettable decision" of his career.



  • Roan, Shari. Substance abuse expert regrets raising drinking age, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2009;
  • Carey, Amanda. "Legal Age 21 has not worked." Yes, we know. Reason Online, July 27, 2009;
  • 25th Anniversary of Age 21 Drinking Law Brings a Changed Mind, HotIndieNews, July 27, 2009.

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