A pharmacist counts pain pills. In an effort to curb the abuse of Oxycontin, Vicodin and other opioid painkillers, some health plans in Massachusetts now limit a patient's initial prescription to a 15-day supply, and plan to halve that number in February. Gabe Souza/Getty Images hide caption

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The effects of opioid abuse can go unnoticed at work. George Doyle/Getty Images hide caption

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Art work by Anne Marie Zanfagna at the First Baptist Church of Plaistow on Dec. 20, in Plaistow, N.H. Tamara Keith/NPR hide caption

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A "speedball" mix of heroin and cocaine has caused overdose deaths for decades. Today, high-risk blends may alternatively include heroin or opioid pain pills plus Klonopin, Clonidine, or Fentanyl. Marianne Williams Photography/Flickr RM/Getty Images hide caption

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Overdoses of hydrocodone and other opioid painkillers caused more than 16,000 deaths in 2013, according to the CDC. Photo Researchers, Inc./Science Source hide caption

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Addiction counselor John Fisher says prescriptions for medicines to help people wean themselves from opioid drugs are part of the appeal of the clinic he operates in Blountville, Tenn. Blake Farmer/NPR hide caption

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Gretchen Burns-Bergman (center) speaks Wednesday at a rally in front of the White House about ending mass incarceration of drug users. Angus Chen/NPR hide caption

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A young boy talks with Tina Cloer, director of the Children's Bureau, in Indianapolis. The nonprofit shelter takes in children from the state's Department of Child Services when a suitable foster family can't be found. Cloer says the average length of stay at the shelter has increased from two days to 10 in 2015. Jake Harper/Side Effects Public Media hide caption

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In Boston, Edmund Hassan, a deputy superintendent of emergency medical services, and his colleagues regularly revive people who have overdosed on opioids. Jesse Costa/WBUR hide caption

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Doris Keene (right) talks with her acupuncturist before a treatment at Portland's Quest Center for Integrative Health. Keene says the treatments have eased her chronic back pain at least as effectively as the Vicodin and muscle relaxants she once relied on. Kristian Foden-Vencil/Oregon Public Broadcasting hide caption

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Katie Serio, director of treatment and prevention at the Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse of Livingston County, N.Y., trains a group of school nurses to use the overdose antidote naloxone at Dansville High School. Michelle Faust/Side Effects Public Media hide caption

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Heroin sold in the U.S., like this dose confiscated in Alabama last fall, is often cut with other drugs. Tamika Moore/AL.com/Landov hide caption

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