Saint John New Brunswick, Canada, October 3, 2022 – Collective efforts between government, private agencies and organizations are crucial in successfully addressing issues of addictions.  This is why, from September 22 to 24 Portage Atlantic in collaboration with the International Council on Alcohol and Addiction (ICAA), hosted a solution-based hybrid international symposium in Saint John New Brunswick entitled “Women and Addiction”. The symposium was inspired by the long-term goal of removing the barriers to meaningful addiction treatment for women and their young children through improved understanding of the impacts of the social determinants of health.

“Women with addiction face unique challenges in the areas of stigma, trauma, co-occurring disorders, gender inequalities and motherhood. As such, we were proud to host this inter-sectoral gathering to make a positive difference in the journey of women with addiction.” – Peter Vamos, President of ICAA and Executive Director of the Portage Program

The path to addiction and the path to recovery for women are unique. Addiction related issues such as stress, fatigue, hunger, body image and low self-esteem are compounded for women when pregnancy and children are added to their substance use.  For many, fear of losing their children interferes with seeking treatment. Dr. Nancy Poole, Director of BC’s Center of Excellence for Women’s Health and Presenter at the Symposium, spoke to CBC Information Morning about the complexities of women and addiction.  She stated that the big concerns are “of reproduction and parenting being really different for men and women, and the impact of using substances when you’re pregnant and having lots of challenges around patenting and child custody and stigma.” Dr. Poole feels that integrating services and wrapping care, particularly around mothers and children, would be a motivator to get care rather than barrier.

Thanks to existing programs in the Province of New Brunswick and beyond and to the virtual and in-person participants, guests had an opportunity to improve understanding of the impacts of the social determinants of health.  Participants shared their knowledge and expertise and played a role in advocating for policies and programs that have the potential to empower women and help them take control of their lives.

Through a multitude of activities such as panel discussions, presentations and sharing of expertise, participants had the opportunity to hear from experts from various regions of the world about their experience and vision of recovery for women and mothers. Suggested actions on how we can address and remove the barriers were shared during the “Wrap-up” session at the conclusion of the Symposium on Saturday. While profound changes are necessary both socially and systemically to better treat women and their children suffering from addiction, ground-breaking studies and innovations in treatment offer hope that new data can be harnessed to foster better gender responsive treatment options for women worldwide. By pooling our knowledge and continuing our collective efforts, we will be able to develop a roadmap to meaningful outcomes for women, mothers and their young children. A commitment to addressing efforts made to date has resulted in the Symposium’s Local Organizing Committee to begin planning for the next International Women and Addiction Symposium to be hosted in 2023.


ABOUT Portage

Portage is a Canadian non-profit organization that helps people suffering from substance use disorders (SUD) to overcome their dependencies and live healthy, happy, and productive lives. Since 1970, Portage has helped tens of thousands of people to take back control of their lives with its specialized drug rehabilitation programs for adolescents, adults, pregnant women and mothers with children, the indigenous community, adults with mental health issues, and individuals referred by the justice system. The organization has helped establish treatment programs and has trained personnel in over 15 countries, including the United States, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, China, Bermuda and various Caribbean nations.  Portage is accredited by Accreditation Canada; most recently in 2021 achieving exemplary standing.


Portage Atlantic, in New Brunswick (Canada) helps youth between the ages of 14 and 21 at its 164 acre site at Cassidy Lake since 1996.



The International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, of which Portage is a long-time member, is one of the oldest non-governmental organisations active in the field of dependencies. Having celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007, ICAA continues to be dedicated to preventing and reducing the harmful use and effects of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and addictive behaviours on individuals, families, communities and society.




For more information: https://www.womenandaddiction.com/



Carol Tracey

(506) 440-3284

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