Chronic, nonmalignant pain is a substantial public health problem in the United States. Research over the past 2 decades has defined chronic pain by using a "biopsychosocial model" that considers a patient's biology and psychological makeup in the context of his or her social and cultural milieu. Whereas this model addresses the pathology of chronic pain, it also places many demands on the physician, who is expected to assess and manage chronic pain safely and successfully. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that opioids can be effective in the management of chronic pain, but there has also been a rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Clinicians should be aware of assessment tools that may be used to evaluate the risk of opioid abuse. A basic understanding of chronic pain pathophysiology and a uniform approach to patient care can satisfy the needs of both patients and physicians.