In 1989 the governor of Maryland, William Donald Schaefer, was faced with proactively addressing the problems created by drug and alcohol abuse. Because of his concern about these issues, Governor Schaefer established the Governor’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission by executive order. As the Commission evaluated the State’s needs, it realized that the State had no reliable information about drug use among its citizens or about the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment programs supported by taxpayer funds. "Nowhere in Maryland does the vast amount of disparate drug and alcohol-related information come together for analysis and distribution..." noted the Maryland Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Plan of 1989.
Because so little information about drug and treatment trends was available, the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission recommended the creation of a special research center at the University of Maryland. This new center’s primary mandate would be “through research, evaluation, and technical assistance, to assist the State in responding to the problem of substance abuse.” The commission believed that locating the center in a university would enhance its credibility and ensure its objectivity. Additionally, the center would be able to draw upon the university’s resources and expertise to accomplish its mission.
In 1990 the new research center, named the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), began its first studies of the State’s drug and alcohol problems, and CESAR held its first Open House in September of 1991. Students, concerned citizens, and numerous State and local dignitaries, including then-lieutenant governor Melvin A. Steinberg and then-UMCP president William E. Kirwan, attended this important “kick-off” event.
Today, several administrations later, CESAR continues to function as a research and training center. As part of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, CESAR helps define the future of drug abuse studies and policies. CESAR trains students from such fields as criminal justice, psychology, sociology, and public health and helps these students gain experience in substance abuse fieldwork and governmental policy analysis. Many CESAR alumni now work successfully in the substance abuse field.CESAR also continues to collect statistical information for use in evaluating and describing alcohol- and drug-related problems. CESAR conducts research on specific State initiatives and serves as a source of technical assistance for civic and legislative bodies throughout Maryland. CESAR’s research enables policymakers, service providers, and concerned citizens to assess progress in addressing alcohol- and drug-related issues. The research and training CESAR offers has consistently guided the development of effective, cost-efficient drug abuse prevention and treatment programs throughout Maryland.