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Two Florida health care organizations have announced a new plan to treat patients coming to the emergency room seeking pain relief. They say the plan aims to reduce prescription drug abuse.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that new laws targeting the state’s “pill mills” have produced the unintended consequence of more patients coming to the emergency room asking for painkillers. Some of these patients are addicted to prescription drugs, the article notes.

Orlando Health and Florida Hospital said this week they are implementing a chronic pain management plan to assist emergency room physicians in dealing with patients looking for pain relief. The plan includes treatment guidelines for doctors, and calls on them to help educate patients about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. ER doctors will refer patients to a primary care physician, who can establish a long-term relationship with them. They will also refer patients to community resources, such as substance abuse treatment, if needed.

The new policy does not withhold pain medication from patients with medical needs, according to a Florida Hospital news release. “As emergency physicians, we understand that pain is real when someone is hurt or needs emergency care,” said Josef Thundiyil, MD of Orlando Health. “We know the importance of appropriately alleviating pain for traumatic injuries and acute illness. We have done so for years and will continue to do so. However, a different approach is needed when some patients visit the emergency department for medical conditions that require long-term pain management.”

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