LONDON, ONT. -- A new Western University study shows that the way the opioid crisis is reported in the media could be adding to the problem rather than helping with a solution.

Everyone has read and heard the many headlines surrounding the opioid crisis across Canada and locally, but that may not be a good thing says Western University Nursing Professor Dr. Fiona Webster.

“In media reporting there is such an emphasis on medical issues in terms of the problem and also a tendency to individualize the problem just to addicts, for example, and that stigmatizes large groups of people.”

Webster and her research team conducted an analysis of 20 years of media reporting surrounding the topic of opioids.

“It’s critically important to understand how the issue is being framed, because of course the way problems get defined to a large extent informs what kind is solutions will be proposed.”

Webster says the opioid crisis can make a good headline for media, but she believed there are actual solutions behind the headlines.

“We believe strongly this should be framed as a public health issue first of all, it allows us to look at solutions like harm reduction, safe injection sites, etc. instead of the policing and criminalization around individuals who might be affected by drugs use.”

Webster also believes more focus should be placed on what she says is one of the main roots of the problem.

“The very large role of the pharmaceutical industry in health care, and the organization of health care surrounding the distribution of pharmaceuticals, and the fact that many people who die from opioid overdose also have other drugs and or alcohol in their system.”

Webster is hoping the information found in this study will help turn the conversation from sensationalizing the issue, to a bigger focus on solutions.