Aims The purpose of this paper is to introduce the social science alcohol and drug research undertaken by the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research (CRF) and at the same time offer an insight into the development in Danish alcohol and drug research throughout the past 15-20 years. Method A review of articles, books and reports published by researcher from CRF from the mid-1990s until today and an analysis of the policy-making in the Danish substance use and misuse area. Results CRF is a result of the discussions surrounding social, health and allocation policy questions since the mid-1980s. Among other things, these discussions led to the formal establishment of the Centre in 1991 under the Aarhus University, the Faculty of Social Science. Since 2001 the Centre has received a permanent basic allocation, which has made it possible to appoint tenured senior researchers; to work under a more long-term research strategy; to function as a milieu for educating PhD students; and to diversify from commissioned research tasks to initiating projects involving more fundamental research. Research at the Centre is today pivoted around four core areas: consumption, policy, prevention and treatment. Conclusion The emergence, continuation, financing and character of the research taking place at CRF can be linked closely to the specific Danish drug and alcohol discourse and to the division of the responsibility for alcohol and drug research into separate Ministries.