The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) is a part of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a premier autonomous medical university in India. This article provides an account of its origin and its contribution to the field of substance use disorder at the national and international levels. Since its establishment, the NDDTC has played a major role in the development of various replicable models of care, the training of post-graduate students of psychiatry, research, policy development and planning. An assessment of the magnitude of drug abuse in India began in the early 1990s and this was followed by a National Survey on Extent, Patterns and Trends of Drug Abuse in 2004. Several models of clinical care have been developed for population subgroups in diverse settings. The centre played an important role in producing data and resource material which helped to scale up opioid substitution treatment in India. A nationwide database on the profile of patients seeking treatment (Drug Abuse Monitoring System) at government drug treatment centres has also been created. The centre has provided valuable inputs for the Government of India's programme planning. Besides clinical studies, research has also focused on pre-clinical studies. Capacity-building is an important priority, with training curricula and resource material being developed for doctors and paramedical staff. Many of these training programmes are conducted in collaboration with other institutions in the country. The NDDTC has received funding from several national and international organizations for research and scientific meetings, and, most recently (2012), it has been designated as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Substance Abuse.