President Nixon signed the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 on December 31, 1970. This legislation—also known as the Hughes Act, for Senator Harold Hughes, a recovering alcoholic who championed the cause of alcoholism research—authorized a comprehensive Federal program to address prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism was first established as a component of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It then became a separate institute alongside NIMH and the National Institute on Drug Abuse under the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration. Since 1974, it has been an independent Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

In its more-than-40-year history, NIAAA has led the effort to reframe alcohol abuse as a medical—rather than a moral—issue, and to study issues relating to alcohol and health systematically, through evidence-based findings.

Throughout its history, NIAAA has conducted and supported research that has improved our understanding of alcohol and its effects on the body, as well as influenced legislation and attitudes toward alcohol in our society. Some key events in alcohol research over the Institute’s history include:

1971—First Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health issued.

1977—First national research workshop on fetal alcohol syndrome organized by NIAAA.

1977—First government health advisory on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders issued.

1981—U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Alcohol and Pregnancy published.

1988—Minimum legal drinking age law instituted.

1988—Legislation passed requiring that alcoholic beverage containers be labeled with a warning of the adverse effects of alcohol on the developing fetus.

1989—Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) initiated.

1991—National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES) launched.

1994—FDA approves naltrexone, a drug that can reduce alcohol craving; in 2006, a long-lasting injectable version of the drug is approved.

1998—Creation of the Task Force on College Drinking.

1999—First National Alcohol Screening Day.

2001—National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) launched.

2002—A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges published.

2002—Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism established.

2003—Creation of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

2003—Prenatal Alcohol, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Stillbirth Research Network launched.

2004—Underage Drinking Research Initiative established.

2005—U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Alcohol and Pregnancy updated.

2005—NIAAA releases Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician's Guide.

2007—The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking released.

2007—Clinical Investigations Group established.

2007—NIAAA shares an Emmy award with HBO, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse for The Addiction Project.

2009—NIAAA releases the Rethinking Drinking interactive Website and print publication.

2010—NIAAA celebrates its 40th year of alcohol research.

2011—NIAAA releases Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner's Guide.

2016—NIAAA collaborates with HBO Documentary Films to produce Risky Drinking.

2017—NIAAA launches the site


NIAAA Directors

Director Starting Date Ending Date

Morris E. Chafitz


September 1, 1975

Ernest P. Noble

February 1976

April 1978

Loran Archer (Acting)

April 1978

April 1979

John R. DeLuca

May 1979

October 1981

Loran Archer (Acting)

November 1981

July 1982

William E. Mayer (Acting)

August 1982

July 1983

Robert G. Niven

August 1983

December 1985

Loran Archer (Acting)

January 1986

October 1986

Enoch Gordis

November 1986

January 2002

Raynard Kington (Acting)

January 2002

November 2002

Ting-Kai Li

November 2002

October 2008

Kenneth R. Warren (Acting)

November 2008

December 2013

George F. Koob

January 2014 Present


To learn more about NIAAA’s history, please see:

The 40th-anniversary issue of the Institute’s peer-reviewed scientific journal, Alcohol Research: Current Reviews:

Alcohol Alert 79: “40 Years of Research Leadership”:

The NIAAA Director’s page: