Prescriptions for opioid painkillers have increased by 60 per cent in the UK during the last decade, and the number of codeine-related deaths in England and Wales has more than doubled.
The government is now planning to put prominent warnings about the dangers of addiction on the packaging of opioid medicines, to protect people from 'the darker side of painkillers' - as Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock put it.
This is an effort to avoid the situation in the United States where 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, which has prompted President Donald Trump to declare a national health emergency.
But are we really on the precipice of our own epidemic?
David Aaronovitch asks how the situation got so out of control in the USA and whether the UK should do more to regulate painkillers containing opioids.
2 May 2019
The Briefing Room: Does the UK have an opioid problem?