On June 25, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law into effect that requires physicians to discuss alternative pain management methods with patients before prescribing, ordering, dispensing or administering opioids. The Florida opioid-related law is part of a statewide response to the opioid crisis. Like many new legislative enactments, the law is causing some controversy.

Details of the Law

The new Florida law requires health providers to inform patients about different non-opioid pain management approaches. Under this law, patients who are being treated for pain have the right to refuse and choose alternative treatment and are required to be offered multiple non-opioid treatment options available in print and online. As part of this law that is intended to reduce opioid addiction, physicians must provide patients with a copy of an educational pamphlet produced by the Florida Department of Health.

The alternative therapies outlined by the state include:

  • Alternative Therapies

    Physical and occupational therapy

    Massage therapy

    Chiropractic care

    Osteopathic manipulative treatment

    Behavioral interventions

    Topical treatment and medications

    Interventional pain management

    Non-opioid anesthesia

Doctors are required to provide explanations about the forms of treatments to patients, including the pros and cons of different treatment methods. They must also consider whether or not a patient is at a high risk of substance misuse. Essentially, the new law gives patients a choice in their medical treatment ⁠— which is a huge shift in how medical care has previously been provided.

Resistance From Physicians

The response to this bill by physicians has largely been negative.

Many doctors in Florida see this law as interfering with their practice and questioning their authority to treat patients. Some doctors do not view the alternative pain management treatments outlined by the law to be appropriate or aligned with their own medical opinions. Claiming that certain methods like chiropractic or acupuncture are part of pseudoscience, rather than science-based medicine, some Florida physicians are unhappy with the law, which requires them to acknowledge and even spread information they may not agree with.

It’s not surprising that physicians are resistant to this law ⁠— it’s a change in practice and comes from the state of Florida, rather than a medical association. However, given that the opioid crisis was influenced by potentially unethical and uninformed medical practices of overprescribing, it’s not unreasonable for legislative bodies to try to protect patients.

Addiction is a difficult disease, and even if it’s controversial and imperfect, efforts to combat the opioid crisis are important. Even at an individual level, there’s a lot you can do. If you or your loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach to learn about treatment programs.