BRADENTON, Fla. -- As the opioid epidemic continues in Florida, doctors and patients are finding new ways to combat the crisis.

  • Major changes in how opioids are prescribed
  • Pain patients more often being referred to specialist
  • Recent bill allows doctors to prescribe a 3-day opioid prescription

Doctors say they are seeing a change when it comes to new patients asking for the highly addictive pain pills.

And an even bigger difference in the doctors who can prescribe them.

More than 10 years ago, Jessica Zeilman was prescribed opioids -- something she would come to regret.

"Now in hindsight that would have changed everything for me," Zeilman said.

When she got into a car accident, Zeilman's doctors treated her pain with opioids. It's very different from how pain is treated today.

"There's a shift in the community," said Dr. Fabian Ramos. "Patients, doctors on the need of or the lack of need of opioids, number 1."

A pain management specialist, Ramos says doctors have no longer been just handing out prescriptions during recent months.

"It's very common for me to receive a patient from the primary doctor, already managed for two-three years on opioids." Ramos said.

Dr. Ramos says more doctors are referring pain patients to a specialist right away. Which means alternative therapies can be introduced as the first course of treatment.

"Patients are not requesting or even thinking that opioids are going to be an option for them," he said.

Those are options Zielman wish says she wish she knew about.

"I know it's a hard adjustment for people that are used to maybe what I was used to too," Zeilman said.

"I was going to pain management before the laws got stricter but my prayer and hope is that they see how much better they do have it now. Even though it's a hard shift."

Ramos said he believes a combination of stricter laws and better education is the reason behind this shift.

The most recent bill to go into effect only allows doctors to prescribe a 3-day opioid prescription at a time.

There is a 7-day option - if deemed medically necessary.