Pain is a common presenting complaint of emergency department patients. Providing instructions that can be easily recalled by patients is an important step in enabling patients to manage their pain following discharge. The effect of the introduction of written discharge instructions for pain medication on patients' recall of instructions was evaluated in this study. A patient-control study within a prospective follow-up study was performed. In the first phase, no written discharge instructions were available. Patients discharged on analgesics filled in a digital questionnaire regarding correct analgesics use. In the second phase, patients were discharged with additional written instructions and completed the same questionnaire. In the first phase, 40% of patients correctly recalled instructions for taking analgesics. In the second phase, significantly more patients, 71% (P < 0.01), were able to recall the instructions correctly. Results of this study support the hypothesis that it makes sense to provide patients with written instructions about the appropriate use of analgesics, and that emergency departments that are not yet doing this should consider introducing this policy. It is a relatively low-cost measure that could lead to a significant improvement in quality of care. European Journal of Emergency Medicine 20:210-213 (c) 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health vertical bar Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.