Manhasset, New York, United States, 17th Jun 2023 – In an effort to shed light on the burgeoning heroin epidemic sweeping across the United States, respected neurologist and addiction expert, Dr. Russell Scott Surasky, has spoken up. With a unique blend of medical specializations, Dr. Surasky uses his vast experience to dissect this alarming trend, attempting to shift the narrative of drug addiction battle in the country. From his perspective, this epidemic is not just a health issue, but also a reflection of deeper societal problems that need to be addressed to contain the rise of heroin and other illicit substances.
“We are facing an opiate epidemic in this country, with about 150 people dying each day from opiate overdoses. We are all now just one degree of separation from someone who is addicted to opiates. If you yourself are not dealing with this issue, then it is likely that someone close to you is. There are very few afflictions in this world that can brutally destroy a life the way opiate addiction does. Half of the counties in the United States do not have a single addiction specialist. In the field of neurology, we have learned an enormous amount about how opiates hijack the brain and how we can help individuals escape what is almost always a life and death situation. It is imperative that physicians do everything they can to help better educate the public about addiction and help save the lives of those who are currently addicted”
By the time you end your morning shower the opiate epidemic will take a life. Everyday 150 families feel the crushing defeat of losing a loved one to the fight against addiction. Annually, over 75,000 people will lose their lives; more than car accidents and gun related deaths combined.
Purdue Pharmaceutical company was the major driving force of this drug epidemic. Purdue Pharma, a privately held pharmaceutical company, made a pain-reliever called Oxycontin in the mid 1990’s. Purdue marketers realized early on that if they could get doctors to prescribe this opiate not just for cancer-related pain but rather for everyday aches and pains, the company’s profits would skyrocket. They did this by creating a massive, fraudulent campaign in which they downplayed the addiction risk of Oxycontin. Purdue’s representatives told doctors that if their patients had pain and did not have a history of addiction, these drugs would not cause them to become addicted. Oxycontin then became the most profitable pain medication ever made. Purdue made $32 billion from this one drug. Addiction rates soared and along with it came untold suffering and death.
There are many Prescription opiate drugs including but not limited to (Vicodin/hydrocodone, Percocet/Oxycodone, Dilaudid/hydromorphone). Three out of four heroin users actually began their tragic path with a prescription opiate drug from their doctor.
The disease of addiction, or SUD, is the most widely misunderstood condition in all of health care. Few conditions on earth are as destructive, horrific, dire and terminal as addiction — particularly opiate addiction. I have made it my life’s purpose to educate the public and fellow medical professionals, about the truth of addiction. There has been a significant leap forward in our understanding of how the brain becomes hijacked by these drugs and how these neurological changes trap individuals into a life of addiction. Out of this new understanding has come advanced neurological medications which can help alleviate needless suffering and save countless lives. Most of the public is only aware of treatments such as Methadone or Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) to treat opiate addiction. There is, however, a newer, non-opiate based, non-habit forming, phenomenally successful treatment called Vivitrol. To understand how Vivitrol works differently than Suboxone or Methadone, we must first understand what is occurring inside the brain of someone who has developed addiction.
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. It is the most powerful driver of human behavior, and no messages from our rational brain can restrain it. The use of opioids (pain relieving medications) hijack the limbic system. These drugs bind directly to receptors, rewiring the brain. This reorders the brain’s survival priorities so that opioid drugs become the primary motivator in life.
Suboxone and Methadone appear to be useful in reducing overdoses, but both are extremely addictive. With Suboxone and Methadone, the brain does not have a chance to return to the normal number of opiate receptors, so the individual continues to rely on opiates to live. The emotional centers of the brain are not allowed to reset. The mind continues to create memories in the presence of an opiate. Physical dependency to opiates continues, so if the Methadone or Suboxone are discontinued the individual will experience horrendous withdrawal symptoms — often leading to relapse. It will require specialized medical care to detox from these medicines.
I have had extraordinary success with the treatment program I developed, which centers around the medication, Vivitrol. Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection that 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 nor get sick; simply nothing would occur. This has been shown to be enough of a deterrent to some patients
I meet people every day who come to me utterly hopeless. They have tried “everything” to get better but have continued to relapse and continued to lose everything in their lives that ever mattered to them. They have come to believe that there is nothing anyone can do to help and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Often, they have lived through multiple overdoses, but still cannot stop using opiates. Many are suicidal. Many times, their loving family members are with them and they often feel hopeless as well. They have watched as their loved one has gone from detox to rehab and back, to no avail. The most rewarding part of my work is the ability to definitively give the suffering individual and their families hope again — something they thought was utterly lost. But it is never hopeless! It does not matter how many detox/rehab programs, relapses or overdoses have occurred. We understand exactly how drugs such as opiates hijack the brain and from this understanding, we have new treatments and renewed hope for every individual.
The language we use to describe people suffering from addiction is important. It influences how we frame issues and solutions — whether an individual should be punished or treated, whether we afford them the full measure of human dignity or condemn them to cower in guilt and shame. The stigma of addiction has serious repercussions for an individual’s likelihood of recovery. Apprehension about social ostracism, anxiety about how they will be received by the medical community, and fear of legal consequences keep many from seeking help.
The term “addict” has overwhelmingly negative connotations to most people. We don’t refer to people with mental and physical impairments as crazies or cripples. We don’t define sick people by their illness. You wouldn’t say “my best friend, the epileptic” or “my best friend, the leukemic”. Yet most people don’t think twice before labeling someone struggling with a substance use disorder an “addict” — dismissively defining an individual’s entire identity and humanity with a single word. This is why language is so important — people are people first and their challenge is just one factor of their life.
We must separate the illness from the individual who suffers from it. We must erase the tinge of character flaws and immorality from addictive disorders and restore dignity and humanity to the people who struggle to overcome them. Being careful about the language we use is an important step toward that end.
1. The federal government must do everything in its power to shut down the influx of heroin/fentanyl into this country. Almost all heroin/fentanyl in the U.S. is grown/manufactured in other countries. These drugs pour across our border every day. Reducing the flooding of these drugs into our communities can help stem the tide.
2. The federal and/or state governments must continue to make it illegal for insurance companies to require prior authorization for medication assisted treatment. While some progress has been made in this area, more needs to be done. It is not uncommon to have patients overdose and die while they are waiting for life saving medications to get “authorized” by their insurance company.
3. Patients in opiate withdrawal are often turned away from hospital emergency rooms. It has been incorrectly taught to doctors and insurance companies that opiate withdrawal is akin to a “bad flu” and is not “life-threatening” or dangerous. The fact of the matter is that opiate withdrawal is horrendous. If that patient leaves and seeks to self-medicate their awful symptoms by using more opiates, they can certainly die. Withdrawal symptoms impact all major bodily systems. These symptoms include severe and unrelenting pain, intractable vomiting and diarrhea, body shakes, severe insomnia, and intense drug cravings — often for many days. Some individuals become suicidal during the withdrawal process. At least 90% of patients will be unable to tolerate the withdrawal symptoms after just a couple of days and then relapse right back to using heroin/fentanyl again. This is a life and death issue every single time, for every single person. Emergency room physicians and insurance companies must improve their training and protocols on how to treat individuals with opiate withdrawal/addiction so that they can stop needless suffering and death.
Most people think that we have great leaders and visionaries running the world. The truth is that we do not elect leaders, we elect followers. We put the person who represents the majority viewpoint into office, and they in turn follow where everyone else is going. You cannot lead as long as you think the way the rest of the community does. They are not leaders, they are followers. When it comes to the issue of addiction, we are living in the land of the blind. Our community at large believes addiction is simply a moral failing. We must elect visionaries with new ideas and who forge new paths forward out of the darkness of ignorance. Many of our “leaders” have the eyesight of an eagle but the vision of a clam.
As a physician and addiction expert, Dr. Russell Scott Surasky urges the nation to recognize and address the complexity of the heroin epidemic. His voice has become a valuable source of authority and understanding in the chaos of the drug fight, and he continues to incite a fundamental shift in how we approach addiction. He emphasizes that unless concerted efforts are made to address underlying issues, this war will remain an uphill battle. Through his work and leadership, Dr. Surasky is committed to seeking out and promoting solutions for a crisis that affects so many citizens across the country.
Organization: Russell S. Surasky
Contact Person: Media Relations
State: New York
Country: United States
Release Id: 1706234197
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