Innovative strategies are desperately needed in the massive fight against addiction, where countless people have suffered physically, emotionally, and socially. Dr. Tiffany O’Donnell, a well-known authority in the field of addiction medicine, has risen in this endeavor as a ray of hope, offering a novel viewpoint to assist people in need in finding their road to recovery.
Dr. O’Donnell learned family medicine would give her the freedom and flexibility to create significant change when she enrolled at Dalhousie Medical School.
The interests of Dr. O’Donnell are addiction treatment and Indigenous health. When the community saw the need for a community-based opioid treatment program, she was called to leadership in addiction medicine early in her career at the Sipekne’katik Health Centre. The initiative was created in association with colleagues and local leaders, and it was introduced in 2017. The International Society of Addiction Medicine certified Dr. O’Donnell after she worked hard to improve her treatment of opioid use disorder.
She developed a passion for fighting systemic racism and the social and structural determinants of health during this time.
According to Dr. O’Donnell, a privileged group created our social institutions a very long time ago. These systems not only haven’t changed with society, but they also purposefully exclude people. Populations are susceptible because of the way our systems are set up, and doctors are in a good position to change this.
Dr. O’Donnell learned from conversations with coworkers—many of whom practice addiction medicine—that they were experiencing the same problems. More pain, risk, and harm result from the criminalization of substance use and substance users than from the substance use itself.
“The war on drugs continues to fail people. Criminalization has not decreased the use and availability of drugs – in fact, it has worsened the harm associated with drug use”, she added.
Dr. O’Donnell helped found Doctors for Decriminalization, a national non-profit organization, in response to the pressing need for reform.
The goal of Doctors for Decriminalization is to improve the health of all Canadians by advocating for responsible and evidence-based drug and substance policies. The group of Canadian clinicians recognizes the harms associated with the criminalization of substance use, which disproportionately affects the most marginalized populations in our society.
More information about Dr. Tiffany O’Donnell, her new approach and the Doctors for Decriminalization at https://www.yourdoctors.ca/blog/health-care/dr-tiffany-odonnell
Photo credits to: https://www.yourdoctors.ca/