Dr. Russell Surasky

There is a massive opioid crisis facing the nation. Tens of thousands of people are dying every year due to drug overdoses caused by highly potent and addictive opioids like fentanyl. With millions affected by opioid addiction, one doctor has decided to find safe and non-addictive treatment methods and has some done with great success.

To understand how big of a problem opioid addiction is, Dr. Russell Surasky explains how we got here. It involves the way opioids work. Since the brain and upper spine have opiate receptors that reduce pain, opioids that originally come from the opium poppy have become popular pain relievers. The downside is that once the drugs wear off and detach from the opiate receptors, the brain gets a signal that it needs more.

There are already endogenous opioids the body produces on its own. These work similar to how opium-derived opioids work. They can reduce pain and also regulate basic essential functions like food, water, and sex. These natural in-house opioids light up the brain's reward center so that we experience feelings of pleasure when our basic physiological needs are met. Opioid drugs work similarly. We get a euphoric feeling and rewire the brain so that we pursue that which gave us those uplifting feelings. That is why people become highly addicted to opioids. The drive to get them in their bodies becomes as intense as the desire for eating and drinking.

Opioid drugs work like endogenous opioids do, but are far more intense in their effects. That is what makes them great at relieving pain for people who need it. However, it is also why they become highly addictive and lead to abuse. When taken recreationally, opioid drugs can lead to becoming dependent on them to feel good mentally and emotionally. Additionally, the possibility of overdosing significantly increases, sometimes resulting in death. The latter is especially true with fentanyl, which is 50x more potent than heroin and 100x more powerful than morphine.

Up until now, the existing opioid addiction treatment methods have been lacking. Within just a few short weeks, opioids will hijack the limbic system in the brain and trick it into believing that it needs the drug to survive. The compulsion to keep taking it becomes overwhelming. That is why treatment methods like counseling are nowhere near enough.

Dr. Surasky has developed a treatment regimen that includes a combination of detox, Vivitrol treatment, and stress reduction focused on the upper spine and limbic system. This trifecta of treatments has resulted in countless patients being successfully weaned off of harmful opioids, and permanently at that. The innovative approach that Dr. Surasky has employed is now being looked at by others, and is likely to become widely adopted in the coming months and years.