Over the years, CCSA's research priorities have focused on supporting the design and implementation of national data-gathering systems, building consensus around a national research agenda, transferring and disseminating knowledge, and promoting program evaluation. As early as 1993, CCSA chaired a national workshop on substance abuse research and funding priorities. This was followed by agenda-setting workshops in 2001 and 2003, co-sponsored by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). CCSA has played a leadership role on major studies of national drug use prevalence, social and economic costs associated with substance use, and the links between alcohol and drug use and crime.
More than 70 leading addictions researchers and other specialists from across Canada met in Ottawa on October 2-4, 2003 to develop a strategic addictions research agenda, ranging from basic and clinical science to social, cultural and environmental research in relation to alcohol and illicit drugs. The objectives were:
- To review the range of research and related priorities in Canada and internationally. To identify and agree on research themes fundamental to addressing health and social issues associated with alcohol and illicit drugs in Canada.
- To explore and support the development of research partnerships among individual and organizational stakeholders. The Forum on Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Research was sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Health Canada, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)(previously known as the Solicitor General of Canada), the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions (CECA), and CCSA.
- Forum participants agreed on a set of nine strategic themes or directions that alcohol and illicit drug research should take, and they are expected to contribute to a new national addictions research agenda. Key to the identification of these themes was agreement that research should be inter-disciplinary. The themes are:
- Aboriginal peoples
- Biology of substance use and addiction
- Health promotion, prevention, and healthy public policy
- Research into knowledge exchange and dissemination
- Sex differences and gender influences
- System design and evaluation, and public policy
- Treatment and relapse prevention
Planning for the 2003 Forum started with recommendations from several previous workshops, including a December 2001 event co-sponsored by CCSA, CIHR and Carleton University. The 2001 Canadian Addictions Researcher Workshop: Moving Toward a Plan of Action to Develop a National Research Agenda was held in Ottawa, on December 15-16, 2001. The goals of the workshop were:
- To support and strengthen CIHR's, and, in particular, Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction's (INMHA) understanding of the needs of the addiction research community.
- To conduct an informal environmental scan of research priorities within the addiction community that would feed into a plan of action to develop a national research agenda.
- To identify practical means to facilitate and sustain collaboration and communication within the addiction field, and with CIHR and INMHA.
Inherent to the discussions was how CIHR, and in particular INMHA, could optimize its investment in addiction research in Canada. Recommendations were made concerning research partnerships in Canada, a model to develop a national research agenda, suggestions for furthering collaboration between CIHR, INMHA and the addictions community, and the identification of logical next steps.