Neurostimulation Treatment May Eliminate Withdrawal Symptoms

A new treatment device that uses neurostimulation may alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms for individuals with substance use disorders going through detox.

The Bridge Auricular Stimulator, also known as the Bridge, uses gentle electrical impulses to stimulate targeted areas of the brain and block feelings of pain and discomfort associated with opioid withdrawal.

Innovative Health Solutions, the Bridge’s manufacturer, derived the device from a previous product called the Electro Auricular Device. That device uses auricular stimulation to treat non-drug-related chronic pain.

The Bridge is roughly two inches large and attaches behind the ear. Once it is securely in place, electrodes connected to the device are attached in and around the ear. The electrodes target specific cranial nerves responsible for withdrawal symptoms.

The device is disposable and meant for one-time use. Most people use the Bridge for five days or the duration of detox. After the withdrawal stage, the device is removed and people can begin medication regimens and counseling to treat their substance use disorder.

Easing Withdrawal

The device is being lauded as a breakthrough for detox treatment techniques. While the Bridge does not cure or treat the mental aspect of addiction, it does largely cut down on discomfort and pain that those who enter rehab treatment are forced to endure.

Brian Carrico, vice president of sales for Innovative Health Solutions, says the Bridge will revolutionize the drug rehab treatment industry.

“This is the first and only of its kind,” Carrico told Indy Star, a USA Today affiliate, in June. “This is groundbreaking. This will absolutely change the face of recovery.”

Carrico says that the Bridge is a tool to get people through the detox phase and make it into treatment.

Some of the biggest problems in drug rehab treatment include people not following through with counseling and medication after detox or refusing to enter treatment altogether because of the fear of withdrawal.

Withdrawal from heroin and other opioids is notoriously difficult. It is characterized by tremors, diarrhea, vomiting and discomfort. The Bridge is meant to ease these symptoms and streamline the path toward recovery.

According to Carrico, 88 percent of people who use the Bridge continue with rehab treatment after detox. Those using the device reported withdrawal symptom relief within approximately 30 minutes of implanting the device.

While the company promotes the Bridge’s ability to alleviate acute muscle and bone pain from withdrawal, people who have used the device claim it has helped them with symptoms of anxiety, vomiting and nausea during detox.

Catching on Quickly

The Bridge is spreading through the country quickly as more and more rehab treatment facilities are using it to help with patient care.

The device is already being used at multiple treatment facilities in Innovative Health Solutions’s home state of Indiana. It is currently being used to treat patients in 17 states, according to Carrico.

Still, some experts question the long-term effectiveness of neurostimulant treatment. Dr. Palmer Mackie, the director of the Integrative Pain Program at Eskenazi Health, says that although the Bridge is a positive step in addiction treatment, he does not see it making a profound impact.

“I think there’s room for optimism about the device,” said Mackie. “But I don’t think anything will revolutionize addiction or chronic pain management.”

One roadblock currently in the way of the Bridge’s spread is the cost. It costs approximately $500 and is not covered under insurance plans.

However, people who have used the device say it is effective and worth the price.

Brittany Tudor is the sister of Shaun Tudor, who is in recovery from a heroin use disorder. After an off-and-on cycle with heroin use and rehab treatment, Shaun was finally able to find a sustained period of sobriety after using the Bridge to get through detox and withdrawals.

“This is the longest he has stayed clean, absolutely,” Tudor said. “The Bridge made withdrawal definitely tolerable.”

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