Preparing Physicians to Treat Addiction

“Every physician will likely treat patients with addiction, so it is imperative that they are equipped with the right information about how to do so successfully.” – Miriam Chickering, CEO of The Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health

Dr. Magali Collonnaz, MD, MPH, MSc, is a medical doctor in France and a researcher at the Frank Foundation whose focus is on substance use and misuse among adolescents in France. As part of the Addiction Training for Health Professionals Program (ATHP) team, she spoke on the topic of Addiction and Public Health and highlighted the importance of prevention among the adolescent population at the Clinical Practice Reflection for medical students presentation hosted by the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) on February 18th, 2022. 

Dr. Collonnaz is also a volunteer regional leader of the European region at the International Working Group for Health Systems Strengthening. She is interested in investigating child and adolescent health, global health, and environmental health. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, she has participated in conferences, and won awards for her work.

During her presentation at NYITCOM, she explained that among the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the need to tackle addiction is highlighted under Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. Target 3.5 is specifically related to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and the harmful use of alcohol, which contribute to the global burden of disease (DALYs).


According to statistics from the World Health Organization, around 20% of the world’s population reported being either daily or occasional smokers in 2019. Based on data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (2019) and the Centers for Disease Control (2021), more than 100 million people worldwide suffer from an alcohol use disorder, and 1% of the world population suffers from drug use disorder. 


Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to addiction since they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior and they often experiment with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Dr. Collonnaz noted that adolescents often engage in social reward-seeking behaviors, and are vulnerable to peer influences because of their strong desire for peer acceptance. Research shows they can adopt behaviors to be included in peer networks or in activities with their peers and that they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors when they are with their peers than when they are alone. In addition, adolescents are often targeted by alcohol and tobacco industries, which use various marketing strategies to make their products look appealing to adolescents. Some examples of these strategies include advertising at events, product placement in movies, paying influencers to promote their products on social media, creating flavored products. 

In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 4 Americans who begin using substances before 18-years-old will develop substance use disorders later in life. As a comparison, only 1 in 25 Americans who begin using substances at age 21 or older will develop substance use disorders later in life. Dr. Collonnaz explained how early initiation of smoking or alcohol use in adolescents is associated with a greater risk of sustained and problematic use later in life. Given adolescents’ vulnerability toward addiction, she believes it is extremely important to implement substance use initiation prevention strategies that directly target adolescents.


When we consider both the mortality caused by a disease and also the disability, we can see that addiction is a major public health issue. is preparing physicians to adequately screen, diagnose and treat patients with substance use disorders through free courses addressing addiction and mental health concerns. Explore our freely available courses that include addiction threading, and the courses that compose a Concentration in Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health with the MPH program. 

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