BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Psychologists from around the state are on the coast for the 2017 Mississippi Psychological Association Convention. A variety of issues and concerns are being discussed. Included on the agenda is what public health officials have called an opioid epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Opioid addiction most often begins with treatment for pain. A workshop at the Mississippi Psychological Convention is dedicated to treating pain, and the opioid problem is a major topic of conversation.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Geralyn Datz from Southern Behavioral Center in Hattiesburg specializes in treating pain. She's also on the front lines of what public health officials have called an opioid epidemic.
In 2016, Mississippi saw at least 211 deaths from drug overdoses. Several factors are driving the disturbing heroin and opioid abuse and addiction numbers.
"There were many forces that brought us to this point. One is the pharmaceutical industry, of course. Another is from the patients' desire to be free of pain. Then, there's addiction. Heroin is very cheap, and prescriptions were easy to obtain. Insurance companies made it very easy to get pain medication," said Datz.
Gov. Phil Bryant has formed the Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force. The State Department of Health is receiving $3.5 million from the federal government to aid in that fight.