An article in the ‘Long Island Press’ caught my attention. Here are some excerpts:

A simple painless spinal adjustment by a chiropractor could be the latest breakthrough in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction… Bridge Back to Life, an outpatient addiction treatment program, has teamed up with New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) … to offer the latest breakthrough therapy for substance use disorder. The first-of-a kind partnership, the brainchild of Bridge Back to Life’s medical director Dr. Russell Surasky, brings doctors from NYCC to evaluate and treat the center’s patients undergoing addiction therapy. Several diagnostic tests are performed at the base of the brainstem to determine if a misalignment exists. If present, the practitioners are taught to incorporate gentle painless, corrective spinal adjustments into the patient’s care plan. This treatment reduces stress on the spinal column and limbic system of the brain…

“Safe, painless adjustments to the upper cervical spinal bones can help normalize the brain’s limbic system by helping with the overall circulation of cerebrospinal fluid of the brain… I truly believe that this agreement with the college will serve as a national model for drug rehabilitation centers throughout the country,” says Surasky, who is triple board certified in neurology, addiction medicine, and preventive medicine. “Not only can spinal adjustments reduce the chronic pain issues that may have led patients into drug addiction in the first place, but now we also have evidence that spinal adjustments actually accelerate the healing of the brain from addiction.”

Surasky points to a study done in 2001 in the journal Nature: Molecular Psychiatry, which looked at the impact of spinal manipulations at an inpatient addiction treatment facility in Miami. The study found that chemically dependent patients who received specific spinal adjustments as part of their treatment reported fewer drug cravings and mental health symptoms. Moreover, 100 percent of the study patients who received chiropractic care completed the inpatient program, while about half of those not receiving treatments dropped out prior to completion. Yet no further studies were performed, and the information languished. Surasky began treating patients with the spinal adjustments at his private practice in Great Neck before bringing the treatment to Bridge Back to Life.

Mary W. came to Surasky’s Great Neck office for help with alcohol addiction nearly one year ago. She received monthly Vivitrol shots and had marked success in curbing her cravings and drastically reducing her drinking. But Mary still had one-day “slips” from time to time. She also complained of insomnia and migraine headaches. She recalled an accident in the past, where she hit her head. Dr. Surasky took X-rays of her upper neck and performed a Tytron scan. He said the digital images showed she had misalignments at the C1 vertebral level, likely putting pressure on the lower brainstem area. In addition to Vivitrol shots, Mary started receiving upper cervical adjustments and has remained sober since. Her migraines have dropped from five per month to one or none and she is sleeping better.

Where to start?

There is much to be concerned about in this short article. Let me mention just a few obvious points:

  1. A treatment that is not backed by solid evidence is hardly a ‘breakthrough’.
  2. The ‘misalignments’ they are looking for do not exist.
  3. Spinal manipulation is not as safe as presented here.
  4. The assumption that it reduces stress on the limbic system is far-fetched.
  5. To suggest this approach as a ‘national model’, is simply ridiculous.
  6. The notion that adjustments increase the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid is not evidence-based.
  7. What are ‘chronic pain tissues’?
  8. The claim that spinal manipulation accelerates healing of the brain is not evidence-based.
  9. The study in Nature Molecular Psychiatry does not seem to exist (I could not find it, if anyone can, please let me know).
  10. X-ray diagnostics cannot diagnose ‘misalignments’.
  11. Tytron scans are used mostly by chiropractors are not a reliable diagnostic method.
  12. Anecdotes are not evidence.

In short: this article reads like an advertisement for chiropractic as a treatment of addictions. As there is no evidence that chiropractic spinal manipulations are effective for this indication, it is hard to think of anything more irresponsible than that.

And here is the question that I often ask myself:

Are there any bogus, profitable, unethical claims that chiropractors would shy away from?


15 Responses to Chiropractic, “the latest breakthrough in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction”

  • Some observations:

    Are you sure this isn’t satire? I mean, the author claims it took place in Great Neck, NY (a real place in Long Island).

    • “. . .marked success in curbing her cravings and drastically reducing her drinking.” She’s only a bit of an alcoholic now. That’s good news! Especially for the local pub owners!

    • Not only did they have fewer cravings, the ones who got the treatments all finished the program while among the untreated, half dropped out. That’s not cause and effect, that’s coincidence (if it’s true at all).

    • “The study found that chemically dependent patients who received specific spinal adjustments as part of their treatment reported fewer drug cravings and mental health symptoms.” They forgot to mention that those who danced wearing only a chef’s apron while making breakfast also reported fewer cravings. If they had tongs in one hand and a spatula in the other while dancing, they also reported fewer mental health problems. (I mean, if we are going to make things up. . .)

    Finally, I note they refer to the patient as “Mary M.” Are they protecting her privacy because she is an addict and it could hurt her chances of employment upon her release, or because it’s embarrassing to admit to seeing a chiropractor?

    • very good point!
      no, I cannot be sure.
      in fact, with chiros, one rarely can be sure.

      • Ron Jette wrote: “Are you sure this isn’t satire?”

        Well, this isn’t…

        • how sure can you be.
          the line between an ‘over-enthusiastic’ or just greedy chiro and a nutter is very thin, I often find.

        • I wonder if that host knows how silly she looks to right-thinking people? The media has an obligation to bring the truth. It really should educate itself about this nonsense.

          And that chiropractor takes credit for everything but building the ark.

          I think what bothers me the most is that this is clearly a marketing video (I take that back—she’s no reporter!) designed to sell the center to potential patients and their caregivers. They use this “new” approach—with zero evidence it works better than a placebo—as a differentiator.


  • And if NUCCA chiropractic could team up with Scientology auditing and NARCONON therapy there would be ZERO addiction problems in this country…or the world. It is nay sayers and skeptics who are keeping these valuable and proven treatments from reaching into the mainstream and solving these problems once and for all. Or so I was told by my chiropractor.

  • Increasing retention rates among the chemically dependent in residential treatment: auriculotherapy and subluxation-based chiropractic care: Molecular Psychiatry, Vol. 6, Supplement 1 – February, 2001

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