Digging out from under the weight of opioid addiction - FOX10 News | WALA

Digging out from under the weight of opioid addiction

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In 2016, Mississippi saw at least 211 deaths from drug overdoses. (Photo source: WLOX) In 2016, Mississippi saw at least 211 deaths from drug overdoses. (Photo source: WLOX)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

America is currently in a battle against opioid misuse and addiction.

Most opioid abuse starts because people are dealing with pain. In response to prescriptions being given out too liberally, government and medical professionals are trying to stop this crisis.

Whether it's prescription painkillers, heroin or synthetic opiates, people are seeing their lives unravel because of addiction.

The fact is, opioid misuse leads to addiction and far too often death.

Hattiesburg Psychologist Dr. Geralyn Datz is an expert on physical and mental health issues. She works on tracking the opioid crisis in an effort to identify the roots of this epidemic.

"There were many forces that brought us to this point. One is the pharmaceutical industry. Another is from the patients desire to be free of pain. Then there's addiction. Heroin is very cheap and pain medications were easy to obtain. Insurance companies made it easy to get pain medication above all other types of treatment," according to Dr. Datz.

That diagnosis of the situation sounds familiar to Heather and Kayla, two residents at Home of Grace Addiction Recovery Center.

 "It started out with medical conditions. I was getting pills from doctors. I have several medical problems and it got out of control. It got to where what the doctors were giving me was not enough. I went on the streets to buy them. It just spiraled out of control," Heather said.

 For Kayla, one strong drug was her undoing. 

"Heroin. It didn't start out with heroin. It progressed. It started out with pills," said Kayla. 

The program at Home of Grace is faith based. Both Kayla and Heather needed spiritual guidance after their lives were turned upside down by opioid addiction.

"I lost my job as a nurse. The hospital fired me. From there, it just got worse. I was living on the streets, I was stealing, I got arrested for the first time in my life. A month later I overdosed," Kayla said.

As a result of a national campaign to change the playing field, policies are being put in place to control prescriptions and find more organic ways to treat patients suffering from pain and other maladies associated with pharmaceutical solutions.

Dr. Datz prefers these approaches.

"We really believe the mind-body connection is the key to treating addiction as well as chronic pain and most health problems. From an addiction standpoint, we would want to move away from using medication, move away from pills to escape. For pain patients the treatment would be like mental health and physical therapy instead of just looking for a pill to solve the problem," Dr. Datz said.

Whether it's prescription medication or street drugs, an addiction to opioids or heroin is a dead end street that ends with either destruction of one's career or family life, a legal nightmare or worse.

Heather is fighting her addiction by turning to God. She advises anyone trapped in the world of addiction to try anything to save their life.

"I would encourage them to get help as soon as possible. I understand if they're embarrassed or ashamed. It's not worth dying over," Heather said.

In Mississippi, the Governor's Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force has received a 3.5 million dollar federal grant. About 80% of that money goes towards treatment and a variety of laws and rules regulating the prescribing of medicine are in the works.

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