Over the past decade there has been an increasing reliance on strong opioids to treat acute and chronic pain, which has been associated with a rising epidemic of prescription opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose-related deaths. Deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled in the USA since 1999, and this pattern is now occurring globally. Inappropriate opioid prescribing after surgery, particularly after discharge, is a major cause of this problem. Chronic postsurgical pain, occurring in approximately 10% of patients who have surgery, typically begins as acute postoperative pain that is difficult to control, but soon transitions into a persistent pain condition with neuropathic features that are unresponsive to opioids. Research into how and why this transition occurs has led to a stronger appreciation of opioid-induced hyperalgesia, use of more effective and safer opioid-sparing analgesic regimens, and non-pharmacological interventions for pain management. This Series provides an overview of the epidemiology and societal effect, basic science, and current recommendations for managing persistent postsurgical pain. We discuss the advances in the prevention of this transitional pain state, with the aim to promote safer analgesic regimens to better manage patients with acute and chronic pain.