President’s Message

Board of director Jennifer Barsch

September 2021

For me, September brings the new academic year and a renewed focus on education for myself and my children. This year, between school starting, the federal election and the pandemic, there are many changes and much feels unsettled and uncertain. That is true in the world of addiction medicine too.

CSAM-SMCA 2021 Annual Scientific Conference

Our Annual Scientific Conference is approaching quickly. Although we had hoped to meet in person, I am pleased we are offering an extensive and exciting virtual conference again this year. Our conference platform is easier to use, and our streamed program features important keynote speakers. We have added some fun new online social events to help you connect with conference attendees and we again feature sessions of special interest to trainees. We hope you will join us online for the conference!

This year, our Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place on Sunday, October 17th at 12pm EST.

Importantly, we will be considering a motion to expand the membership criteria for voting members. Currently, only physicians and PhD researchers are able to become voting members. However, addiction medicine in Canada is delivered by health care professionals in many fields, including nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, psychologists, and others. The motion for the AGM will propose that any member in good standing of a Canadian regulated health professional organization be eligible to become a voting member. This will broaden and expand our membership, and may lead to changes in our educational offerings and other activities of CSAM-SMCA. I urge all voting and associate members of CSAM-SMCA to attend our AGM in order to discuss and vote on the proposed motion, as it will impact the future of our organization. Click to RSVP to the meeting.

These are difficult times in addiction medicine.

The opioid overdose epidemic continues to claim many lives, every loss a tragedy. The US recorded over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May 2020, with more recent numbers suggesting an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic . The rate of opioid overdose deaths is increasing dramatically in Canada too, from 3830 deaths in 2019 to 6214 deaths in 2020 The pandemic continues to disproportionately affect socially disadvantaged people, including many with substance use disorders, with the rise in opioid overdose deaths just one measure of the consequences of the double epidemic. As the provinces consider needed post-pandemic health care resources, we all need to be advocating for expanding all aspects of harm reduction, care and treatment for people with addictions.

Providing care to PWUD (People Who Use Drugs) during the pandemic has been challenging. Many of us have lost patients to an opioid overdose or COVID-19 infection. It has been difficult to support patients with many programs closed, reduced access to treatment and treatment programs, and the strains of social isolation, financial hardship and homelessness. Many of us have experienced moral injury in our work during the pandemic, and many of us are on the edge of or are experiencing burn out. One of our keynote speakers at the conference, Dr. Matma Gautam, will be speaking specifically to caring for ourselves and supporting our colleagues through burn out, vicarious trauma and moral injury. I’m looking forward to Dr. Gautam’s presentation, and know her comments will contribute to the important dialogue about self-care and supportive workplaces for health care professionals.

Thank you for all you do to help and support people with addictions. Please take care of yourself and each other.


The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine is a national society of medical professionals and scientists committed to helping Canadians understand, accept, and recover from substance use disorders.

Want to Stay Connected with the Addiction Medicine Community?

Join 2,600 Canadian addiction medicine professionals who receive our free monthly newsletter.