How the nerve stimulator for opioid withdrawal works
The concept of using nerve stimulators to help ease physical discomfort isn’t new. For example, pain specialists at Emory Healthcare use a small electrode implanted in the epidural area of the back to treat some cases of nerve pain and a condition known as “failed back surgery syndrome,” without relying on opioids for pain relief. The electrode sends electrical impulses to the spine, blocking pain or changing pain signals into a more pleasant feeling.
The NSS-2 Bridge, on the other hand, is not implanted and does not need to be used for long. The small electrical nerve stimulator is placed behind the ear of a patient faced with opioid withdrawal symptoms. A battery-powered chip inside the small device emits electrical pulses to stimulate branches of certain cranial nerves that carry signals to the brain.
The result is relief of withdrawal symptoms, especially during the most crucial five days when the physical reactions to coming off opioids is especially acute, according to the FDA.
Prior to using the device, the patients who participated in the research study had high levels of physical and emotional discomfort and pain after giving up opioids. But after only 30 minutes of using the nerve stimulator for opioid withdrawal symptoms, they felt dramatic relief.
In fact, after just five days of using the device, 64 of the 73 research subjects —almost 90 percent — were able to transition to other assisted therapy (using non-opioid medications to control persistent symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting) and beat their opioid addiction.
Innovation to stop opioid addiction
“Given the scope of the epidemic of opioid addiction, we need to find innovative new ways to help those currently addicted live lives of sobriety with the assistance of medically assisted treatment. There are three approved drugs for helping treat opioid addiction. While we continue to pursue better medicines for the treatment of opioid use disorder, we also need to look to devices that can assist in this therapy,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, when the nerve stimulator for opioid withdrawal symptoms was approved.
“The FDA is committed to supporting the development of novel treatments, both drugs and devices, that can be used to address opioid dependence or addiction, as well as new, non-addictive treatments for pain that can serve as alternatives to opioids.”
January 24, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN