Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Early childhood experiences shape our minds and play a large role in how we interact with the world. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can increase the risk of physical and mental illness later in life, including substance use disorders. ACEs are stressful experiences, such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, that occur before age 18. Understanding how ACEs affect brain development and shape health outcomes is essential for identifying risk for substance use and associated harms. This information can also help to identify points of intervention to try to prevent or treat substance use later in life.

CCSA is collaborating with the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AFWI), the developer of the Brain Story. The Brain Story describes, for non-experts, the science and the relationships among ACEs, brain development and health outcomes, using five metaphors. Our goal is to expand the reach, accessibility and understanding of Brain Story science to raise awareness of substance use as a public health issue, reduce stigma, and change policy and practice accordingly.

To achieve these goals through our partnership with AFWI, we have:

  • Translated the Brain Story certification course into French;
  • Promoted Brain Story certification as a learning tool for professionals across sectors;
  • Led the Brain Builders Lab, which supported participants in developing, implementing and evaluating community-based projects that move Brain Story knowledge into action.  

Register for the Brain Story certification course using our unique English or French links. To learn more about Brain Story science and CCSA’s involvement, please contact

To see the change others have already created in their own communities, please view our Impact Videos. 

We’re proud to foster the growing Brain Builders community.

Featured Resource

The resource, Brain Builder Learning Cards, is intended for double-sided printing, on card stock, by a commercial printer.

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