In the time it takes you to eat your next meal the opiate epidemic will take a life. Each day 125 families feel the devastation of losing a loved one to addiction. This year alone over 50,000 people will lose their lives; more than car accidents and gun related deaths combined. This includes not just illegal drugs but the astounding velocity of deaths due to the consequences of doctor prescribed medications. In fact, three out of four heroin users began their tragic path with a prescription from their doctor.
Dr. Russell Surasky of New York is a brain specialist. He is double board certified in both neurology and addiction medicine. In fact, he may be the only physician on the planet with his combination of credentials. He is currently the medical director of Bridge Back to Life, a multi-center outpatient addiction treatment program. He is also the founder of the Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction in Great Neck, N.Y.
Addiction is a brain disease. Essentially it is a tale of 2 brain centers; our rational brain and our limbic system. The limbic system controls basic survival needs such as eating, drinking and mating. It functions outside conscious control. No messages from our rational brain can restrain it. The use of opioids (pain relieving medications) hijack the limbic system, the most powerful driver of human behavior. These drugs bind directly to receptors rewiring the brain. This reorders the brains survival priorities so that opioid drugs become the primary motivator in life.
Currently Suboxone and Methadone are the drugs used to treat opiate addiction. They appear to be useful in reducing overdoses, however they are both extremely addictive. With Suboxone and Methadone the brain doesn’t have a chance to return to the normal number of opiate receptors and the individual continues to rely on addictive substances to live. The emotional centers of the brain aren’t allowed to reset. The mind continues to create memories in the presence of an opiate. This continues the craving and obsession which fuels relapses and perpetuates the addictive cycle. Therefore, Suboxone and methadone create a trade-off; a short-term benefit with a long-term consequence. In the very near future we will be left with countless patients physically dependent on these drugs. This will require specialized medical care to detox them off these medicines.
Dr. Surasky has had extraordinary success with a treatment program that he developed which centers around the medication Vivitrol. Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection that dramatically reduces cravings for opiate drugs. In contrast to Suboxone and Methadone, Vivitrol is not an opiate, it is not addictive, and it does not cause physical dependence. Also, if a patient taking Vivitrol were to use opiates they would not feel high, not get sick; simply nothing would occur. Additionally, Vivitrol is not a life sentence of medication. Treatment length varies but typically lasts for approximately 1 year. It is incorrectly believed that one must stop using opiates for over a week and go through severe withdrawal symptoms prior to their first Vivitrol treatment. This is no longer true. Dr. Surasky has developed a new protocol using neurologic based medications that currently exist which can immediately eliminate the opiate withdrawal symptoms. This allows patients to be treated with Vivitrol just a few days after last opiate use.
While the addiction community attempts to keep pace with Dr. Surasky’s work, he is already pioneering further breakthrough treatment. Research published in the prestigious Journal of Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that patients in an inpatient drug rehab facility that received physical treatment to reduce stress to their spinal column, had better recovery than the other patients. This study showed conclusively that patients who received this specific spinal treatment had much higher rates of completing the addiction treatment program and lower anxiety levels than the other patients. Dr. Surasky believes that this spinal treatment works because it actually has a direct impact on the limbic system of the brain itself. Based on this study and Dr. Surasky’s collaboration with Dr. Ian Tremayne, Dr. Surasky now includes this spinal treatment for his patients. Initially, highly detailed imaging and thermographic analysis of the upper cervical spine, the region that protects the brainstem, are performed. Treatment is then based on these results.
This unique combination of detoxification, Vivitrol treatment and reduction of stress to the upper spine and limbic brain truly represents the most advanced system of addiction recovery. Dr. Surasky now travels as an expert speaker to educate physicians and the New York criminal justice system about addiction and these advanced treatments.