“This is a very significant reduction in opioid prescribing in Maine, and in terms of a population health issue, this is a good thing,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, chief medical officer of Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor. “To the extent that the prescriber is fully engaged with their patients, and conducts a rational and compassionate tapering program, quality of life improves. But some patients are getting the rug pulled out from under them, and they are not having a positive experience.”

At Nesin’s clinic, 77 percent of patients who previously used opioids for chronic pain now no longer use them, he said. They employ a “multifaceted” approach that can include therapy, yoga, nutrition and over-the-counter medications. There is no evidence that opioids are effective at controlling chronic pain, Nesin said, and opioid drugs can cause overdoses and lead to substance use disorder.

With less opioid prescribing, there are more patients like Drew Floyd of Portland, who was weaned off opioids for chronic back pain two years ago. Floyd, a Mercy Hospital patient, had tapered to a low dose of opioids before the law that would have required her to do so went into effect.