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CISUR celebrates 20 years

November 16, 2023

On October 20, the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research celebrated its 20th anniversary with a small gathering of current and former CISUR folks, friends and supporters. 

In 2003, the Centre for Addictions Research BC (CAR-BC) was officially launched at UVic with an endowment of $10M from the Kaiser Foundation. In 2017, CAR-BC was renamed the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research to better reflect the evolving nature and expanding reach of the research and community engagement.

This network of individuals and groups is dedicated to the study of substance use and addiction in support of community-wide efforts to promote health and reduce harm. Their research informs a broad range of projects, reports, publications and initiatives to provide all people in Canada and beyond with access to happier, healthier lives, whether using substances or not.

The institute’s guiding principles have remained steady over the past 20 years: collaborative relationships; independent research; ethics, social equity and justice; reducing risk and increasing protection; harm reduction; and informed public debate. And in 2021, CISUR was named the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Alcohol and Public Health Policy Research.

Clearly, CISUR is active and making a difference. The globally recognized scientists continue to apply for and receive grants to advance impactful research and programs. They welcome students, who expand their horizons with world-class experiential learning. 

The list of researchers, students, partners and projects would run to pages; the list of impacts on lives and communities just as long. So here are only a few of very many possible examples. One is the release this year of the updated Canadian Substance Use Cost and Harms study in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addictions; this national surveillance project documents the health and economic impact of seven substances. As well, CISUR scientists were instrumental in creating, and public engagement about, Canada’s low-risk alcohol use guidelines, which garnered international media attention and generated a lot of dinner-table conversations. The social value of the Drug Checking Project has been recognized with new funding from Island Health and the BC provincial government to sustain and expand the service. And on the website, the Safer Bathrooms Toolkit was viewed almost 10,000 times in the first six months and the Bathroom Safety Assessment Walkthrough Checklist was downloaded almost 1,000 times during the same period.