Health services research is a multidisciplinary field that examines ways to organize, manage, finance, and deliver high-quality care. This specialty within substance abuse research developed from policy analyses and needs assessments that shaped federal policy and promoted system development in the 1970s. After the authorization of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), patient information systems supported studies of treatment processes and outcomes. Health services research grew substantially in the 1990s when NIAAA and NIDA moved into the National Institutes of Health and legislation allocated 15% of their research portfolio to services research. The next decade will emphasize research on quality of care, adoption and use of evidence-based practices (including medication), financing reforms and integration of substance abuse treatment with primary care and mental health services.