HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Ann Dowsett Johnston

Award-Winning Writer and Expert on Alcohol Policy and Addiction Issues


  • Our Love Affair with Alcohol: How a Fairy-Tale Romance Blocks Strong Policy
  • You’ve Gone the Wrong Way, Baby: Why Women Drink Too Much and What We Can Do About It
  • Stigma and Addiction: The New Face of Recovery


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Ann Dowsett Johnston, an award-winning writer and editor, is calling attention to a global health epidemic that is rapidly becoming one of the most pressing issues for women today. In her new book, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (HarperWave), Dowsett Johnston explores the rise in alcohol consumption and abuse among women. Named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by the Washington Post, Drink covers everything from the health risks, marketing, current trends, and sociological underpinnings of this new epidemic. An outspoken speaker on the subject of drinking and alcohol policy issues, Dowsett Johnston is an excellent fit for schools and universities, health conferences and expos,  substance abuse organizations, public policy groups, and cultural societies.

Through in-depth reporting and an intimate look at her own struggles to overcome the demon that threatened her professional and personal life, Dowsett Johnston’s book sheds light on the alcohol industry and its growing influence over women’s down-time and brand loyalty. Wines with names like Girls’ Night Out, MommyJuice, and Mommy’s Time Out, as well as berry-flavored vodkas and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are just some of the brands that are targeted to women. In the United States, rates of alcoholism among women have risen more than 50 percent in the past decade, with those born after 1953 reporting the largest percentage increase. As well, there has been an alarming rise in the proportion of young British women presenting with end-stage liver disease in recent years . Another phenomenon, drunkorexia, is an emerging problem on college campuses, with 30 percent of those interviewed admitting they had restricted food in order to consume greater quantities of alcohol, according to a study by the University of Missouri. Drink aims to point out these glaring issues and educate the public on the alarming rise of alcohol abuse among women.

The winner of five gold National Magazine Awards, a Southam Fellowship, and the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, Dowsett Johnston is a gifted writer, editor, and public speaker. A respected advocate in public policy matters, she has a distinguished track record in shaping a broad variety of dynamic publications.

Most recently, she wrote a 14-part series on women and alcohol that appeared in The Toronto Star. She was the editor-at-large at Maclean's where she was best known for pioneering the magazine's system of ranking Canadian universities. As a columnist, feature writer, and speaker, Dowsett Johnston has developed a strong leadership voice on educational policy and re-investment. In 2006, she became vice-principal of McGill University, where she is in charge of development, alumni relations, and strategic communication. Dowsett Johnston has written on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the arts to mental health and her personal writing was anthologized in Dropped Threads II: More of What We Aren't Told. A graduate of Queen's University, she now lives in Toronto, Canada.

Praise for Ann Dowsett Johnston:

"On behalf of House of Friendship we want to fully endorse Ann Dowsett Johnston both as a speaker and a champion for individuals struggling with addictions… Over 330 guests heard a poignant tale of a love affair gone wrong. Ann's message was powerful and insightful, leaving no doubts about the need for progressive public policy on alcohol use and the need for adequate and appropriate treatment services for those suffering from addiction. Well the (net) results of the evening definitely exceeded our hopes for the evening. More importantly, Ann started a very challenging discussion that is still being carried on by the folks in attendance that night. Ann challenged our thinking through the presentation with her insights, research, and experience.”
-- House of Friendship

“We received so much positive feedback about Ann's talk.  A doctor came up to me and said how much she appreciated what Ann said and that she strongly agreed with her findings/suggestions…. We appreciated Ann's feistiness and passion.  She is a brilliant communicator and we all wished she would have kept sharing more stories and insights.  On a professional level, I greatly appreciated the way Ann approached this event.  She took the time to learn about our work and the campaign we launched.  She incorporated the campaign in to her talk which helped us generate support.  On a personal level, I found Ann to be incredibly authentic and passionate.  We found her insights and support incredibly helpful."
-- House of Friendship

"I want to take a moment to acknowledge your contribution to our continuing efforts to reduce harms by alcohol within the Acadia University community... The student leaders and students connected immediately with your honest, factual, and non-judgemental approach... The faculty members who invited you to speak during class time were equally impressed with your engaging style and willingness to entertain questions and dialogue with students"
-- James Sanford, Acadia University

Praise for Drink:

“Ann Dowsett Johnston brilliantly captures how addiction stealthily invades lives. She courageously delves into the lure of alcohol-whether it comes from the culture around us, the false promises, or the pain we seek to numb. Drink is an important and timely call to attention for the rise of binge-drinking and alcohol addiction in women of all ages.”
-- David A. Kessler, M.D., Author of the New York Times bestseller, The End of Overeating, and Former Commissioner of the FDA.

“In this comprehensively researched and insightful book, Ann Dowsett Johnston chronicles her own destructive dance with alcohol, her recovery and explores disturbing trends in contemporary women’s relationship to alcohol. A crucially important book for anyone interested in women’s health and addiction issues.”
-- Susan Juby, author of Nice Recovery

Drink is a gift to women, to parents, and to all who want to understand the experience of alcoholism. The writing is gripping and vivid, the voice personal, the research exacting, the stories revealing if sometimes heartbreaking, the conclusions essential. A triumphant life, a triumphant book.”
-- Gabor Maté M.D., Author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

“Part elegiac memoir and part synthetic journalism, this book tackles bluntly the silence and complicity about alcoholism in women. It traverses subjects from brain science to public policy, from trauma to culture, always with powerful stories of women for whom alcohol became an insidious and destructive force. Without soft-pedaling the damage and losses, it is also a story of love, triumph and hope.”
-- David Goldbloom, MD, FRCPC, Senior Medical Advisor, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health