The growing opioid crisis has become the focus of a research study at Western University that takes a look at the crisis from a different perspective - how it affects doctors.

It’s a problem that impacts thousands of people.

“Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in Canada and up until recently, opioid pain medication was the first line treatment for it” says Dr. Fiona Webster, associate professor at the Western School of Nursing.

Webster and her team have found the growing problem isn’t just affecting the patients, doctors are being affected as well, “We saw significant distress from the doctors we spoke with.”

Over 60 physicians from across the province were interviewed for this study, some from urban centres, others from semi-rural areas and remote northern communities.

The conclusion was almost unanimous across the board, the opioid crisis is leading to doctor burnout.

“We had one physician saying she’s laying awake at night worrying about her patients with chronic pain and worried about opioid addiction. And we heard a loss of job satisfaction, a lot of doctors said they don’t feel satisfied with what we can provide patients in these circumstances.”

Webster says one of the main issues that has been putting doctors between a rock and a hard place is the lack of access to therapeutic treatments as an alternative to opioids.

“In the absence of opioid there are no well-funded alternatives for doctors to offer patients, things like physiotherapy and massage can only be taken up by wealthier patients.”

The hopes are the findings in the study will help promote much needed change before more patients and their doctors are affected.

“If there aren’t better supports for physicians and patients we are going to see growing rates of addiction and suffering amongst patients, and we are also going to see rising rates of physician burnout in the future. So it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.”