New device eases Acute Heroin-withdrawal pain

24 November 2016
Arturo C. Taca Jr., M.D., an addiction medicine expert, uses this device at his INsynergy Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Center in St. Louis. The results are promising. Dr. Taca is the first in the nation to use The Bridge as part of a comprehensive addiction-therapy protocol to help those suffering with heroin or opioid dependence.

“Heroin and opioid abuse is a devastating, growing problem in our community and across our country,” said Dr. Taca. “What makes this type of addiction so insidious is the pain associated with detoxification. When users want to get clean, they often cannot because the pain of withdrawal is almost unbearable. The Bridge device offers quick reduction of pain associated with most opiate withdrawal symptoms during an office visit – this allows the patient to take the first step toward recovery.”

The Bridge is a half-dollar-sized device which is attached behind the ear and worn for up to five days. It stimulates the nerve pathways that signal and register pain in the brain. The stimulation disrupts the pain signals, providing relief without the need for medication. Once withdrawal pain has subsided and the patient is clean of opiates, they can be transitioned to non-habit forming products like naltrexone (Vivitrol), as part of their long-term recovery.

Great potential

Dr. Taca, also president of the Midwest Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), recognizes that the device has great potential, but also  acknowledges that The Bridge treatment protocol is not recommended for everyone.

“The use of The Bridge helps break the cycle of dependence on any type of opioid drug or replacement medication, such as methadone or buprenorphine, which is extremely promising,” said Dr. Taca. “But it is not intended for everyone who desires to detox from opiates. Patients need to have a thorough discussion with their physician or addiction specialist before discontinuing or changing any medications, treatments or therapies.”
The company Innovative Health Solutions of Versailles, Indiana developed The Bridge as a drug-free option for pain management. Ultimately, Dr. Taca hopes to gather additional data on the device’s usefulness in opioid-withdrawal treatment so The Bridge may be considered for coverage by Medicaid and insurance.

“Opioid abuse and heroin addiction continue to have costly, devastating consequences for our families, communities, economy and health system” said Dr. Taca. “We must continue to identify and support solutions that can help reverse this terrible epidemic.”