An emotional Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday signed what he called the most comprehensive law in the nation to combat an opioid addiction scourge, including a seven-day limit on first-time prescriptions for opiate painkillers.

The Republican governor struggled to maintain his composure while recalling families he had met – some standing behind him at the Statehouse ceremony – who had lost loved ones to a “deadly, merciless epidemic” and others who were desperately seeking help for a family member.

In recent years, the opiate-abuse epidemic has claimed thousands of lives in Massachusetts. The law, which was given final approval by the Legislature last week, establishes new rules and procedures for the prescribing of opiate painkillers. Supporters of the limits say most heroin addicts first become hooked on painkillers that were either prescribed or obtained illegally.

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