News Release 

Caught in the middle: Family physicians discuss their role in the opioid crisis

Family physician perceptions of their role in managing the opioid crisis

American Academy of Family Physicians

Family physicians prescribe the greatest volume of opioids (22.9%) and number of prescriptions (31.2%) to individuals with chronic noncancer pain, making them targets for quality improvements in safer prescribing practices. Interviews with 22 family physicians in Ontario, Canada, from June to July 2017, identified key themes driving the over prescription of opioids in managing chronic pain: the contrast between doctors' training and current expectations; navigating patient and system expectations; and the duration and quality of therapeutic relationships. Physicians with five or fewer years' professional experience emphasized the need to create trusting relationships with their patients as well as the difficulties arising in conversations about chronic pain, including surveillance and urine screening. Physicians with longstanding, stable practices of around 15 years or more, described stronger, more trusting therapeutic relationships that lessened the need for strict enforcement measures. Both groups complained of a lack of resources to support effective pain management. A combination of outside pressures and system expectations around the issue of opioid prescriptions places family physicians at the center of an emotionally-charged debate, and at a heightened risk of burnout.


Family Physician Perceptions of Their Role in Managing the Opioid Crisis
Laura Desveaux, PT, PhD, et al
Women's College Hospital / University of Toronto, Canada

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