New device to help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms

The Bridge (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - Imagine if a small piece of technology behind your ear could help reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Some call this device, newly-approved by the FDA, a game changer.

The Bridge, first approved for acupuncture, has now been approved to help relieve withdrawal pain.

It's a small device, about the size of a half of a dollar, that a doctor places behind the ear of a patient. It’s held in place with adhesives and should remain there for five days. A battery-powered chip discharges electrical pulses to nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Local advocates said this is good news.

"We get people into treatment all the time,” said David Attridge, the executive director of Recovery Now NY. “There's been many times I walk somebody up to the door of a treatment center, and they turn around, push me, and ran because they just don't want to go through that. It's just so hard."

Lisa Erne's son has battled heroin addiction for seven years.

"It's very hard when you're thrown into this, as we were, and didn't see it coming,” she said. "You're embarrassed. At the time, you think you failed as a parent. What did I miss? What did I do so wrong?"

Her son recently relapsed. She knows this is a health crisis that claimed 169 lives in Monroe County last year.

"This is my role, to help my child with a health issue,” she said. “I would be researching what's currently available or might be coming down the pipeline."

The newest thing is the "Bridge" by Innovative Health Solutions. A clinical study showed opioid withdrawal symptoms dropped within 30 minutes of use, and as early as 10 minutes.

That same study shows 88 percent of patients transitioned to medication-assisted therapy after five days using the device.

"I think if this could take away the pain, or at least minimize the pain in as little as 10 or 15 minutes, and again they can go about their day and their responsibilities in life and their sobriety, I just don't know why we can't try this here," Erne said.

Recovery Now NY, which works to get addicts into rehab, is working to contract with the company to bring the device here. They’re also talking with local leaders for funding for those who can’t afford the product, which costs about $600. They are also seeking area doctors, physicians’ assistants and registered nurses who’d be willing to put on the device.

"This could be another miracle device sort of, like, Narcan is. And, again, it has to have a good program to go after it," Attridge said.

Currently, the device is available only by prescription. A doctor has to apply the device to the patient.

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