A mixed-methods assessment of the impact of the opioid epidemic on first responder burnout

Erika Pike, Martha Tillson, J. Matthew Webster, Michele Staton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: First responders have demanding jobs and report experiencing burnout. The opioid epidemic has added to first responder workloads, which could contribute to increased burnout. This mixed-methods study examined burnout among first responders by: 1) describing burnout among first responders specifically related to workload demands associated with the opioid epidemic; 2) exploring first responder perspectives on how the opioid epidemic has affected their profession; and 3) conducting exploratory analyses to examine how burnout and perspectives on the effect of the opioid epidemic differ across first responder professions. Methods: First responders completed an online survey (n = 196), including a burnout questionnaire, as part of a county-wide opioid misuse resource and needs assessment. A subset completed qualitative interviews (n = 12). In both the survey and interviews, participants were asked their perspectives on how the opioid epidemic impacted their profession. Results: One-third (33%; n = 179) of survey respondents reported high burnout scores. The majority saw community opioid misuse as a significant problem (98%; n = 188) that has affected their profession (95%; n = 188). Qualitative analyses supported survey findings with participants expressing increased workloads and emotional effects related to the opioid epidemic. Conclusions: First responders reported experiencing burnout, increased workloads, and negative emotional effects related to their role in responding to the opioid epidemic. Despite this, first responders view responding to community opioid misuse as part of their professional role for which they have received specialized training. Future research should continue to explore the impact of the opioid epidemic on first responders, including how to prevent or address burnout.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107620
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Burnout
  • First responder
  • Mixed-methods
  • Opioid epidemic
  • Opioid misuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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