Dr. Russell Surasky of New York is a brain specialist, double board certified in neurology and addiction medicine – a rare combination. 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,” Dr. Surasky said. “
Essentially, it is a tale of 2 brain centers; our rational brain and our limbic system.” The limbic system controls basic survival drives such as eating, drinking and mating. It is outside conscious control. Messages from our rational brain cannot restrain it. Opioids (pain relieving medications) hijack the limbic system. They bind directly to receptors rewiring the brain. This reorders the brain’s survival priorities so that opioid drugs become the primary motivator in life.
Currently, Suboxone and Methadone are the drugs used to treat opiate addiction and do appear to be useful in reducing overdoses. However, Dr. Surasky explains, they too are opiates and cause extreme physical dependency. 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 mind continues to create memories in the presence of an opiate. This continues the craving which fuels relapses. Therefore, Suboxone and methadone create a trade-off; a short-term benefit with a long-term consequence. What we’re left with are countless patients physically dependent on these drugs, who 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 non-opiate, non-addictive medication Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection that dramatically reduces cravings for opiate drugs. In contrast to Suboxone and Methadone, Vivitrol does not cause physical dependence. If a patient taking Vivitrol was to use opiates, they would not feel high or get sick; nothing would occur. Also, Vivitrol is not a life sentence of medication. Treatment length varies but typically lasts for about 1 year.
Initially, one had to stop using opiates for more than a week and go through severe withdrawal symptoms prior to their first Vivitrol treatment. This is no longer necessary. Dr. Surasky has developed a new protocol, using neurologic-based medications that can immediately eliminate opiate withdrawal symptoms and allow patients to be treated with Vivitrol just a few days after last opiate use.
To further ensure a successful recovery for those receiving Vivitrol, Surasky is pioneering further breakthrough treatment. This treatment has to do with reducing stress on the spinal column, thereby relieving stress to the limbic system in the brain. 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 all 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 treatment works because it has a direct impact on the limbic system of the brain itself. Based on this medical study and Dr. Surasky’s collaboration with Dr. Raymond Damadian (the inventor of the MRI machine) and Dr. Ian Tremayne (upper cervical specific chiropractor), Dr. Surasky now includes this treatment for his patients. Dr. Surasky states “Dr. Damadian and Dr. Tremyane had made these incredible discoveries, but nobody in the neurological community had connected that this treatment could also help people suffering with addiction”.
It begins with highly detailed imaging and thermographic analysis of the patient’s upper cervical spine, the region that protects the brainstem, Dr. Surasky explains. “These studies are quick and completely painless.”
“In many cases these advanced diagnostic studies are showing us that the top bone in the neck (called the Atlas), which connects to the base of the skull, has some degree of misalignment and/or loss of proper motion. This can occur simply due to the spine’s adaptation to the normal physical stressors of life. Most people are completely unaware when this occurs as there is often no associated pain but it can cause alterations in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and interfere with the neurological connections between the brain stem and the rest of the body. This condition, called “Cranio-cervical syndrome,” is particularly important when an individual is recovering from drug or alcohol addiction and can lead to an impediment or delay in the healing of the limbic system.”
Most of his patients now undergo x-rays, thermographic testing and MRI of the cranio-cervical junction to evaluate if Cranio-Cervical Syndrome exists. If present, he incorporates gentle painless corrective spinal treatment into their care plan along with Vivitrol.
Dr. Surasky is now a national expert speaker for Alkermes – the pharmaceutical company who manufactures Vivitrol. He is also an expert speaker for the pharmaceutical company USA WorldMeds. Additionally, he educates physicians and the New York criminal justice system about addiction and these new advancements in treatment.