Opioid withdrawal is perhaps the most difficult, painful, and frightening aspects of recovery for patients seeking treatment for prescription painkillers, heroin or other opiate-related addictions or dependencies.
The NSS-2 Bridge is the latest technology to assist in alleviating many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with withdrawal and its effects can be felt in as quickly as 30 minutes.
Approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of pain in 2014, the government agency expanded the Bridge’s approval as “…the first device for use in helping to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal,” in November 2017.
A small electronic stimulator the size of a hearing aid, the NSS-2 Bridge fits discreetly behind a patient’s ear. Painless electrical pulses are delivered through the skin to four cranial nerves, including the occipital nerves along the cervical vertebrae.
A physical dependence to opioids, such as painkillers or heroin, make the brain produce high levels of noradrenaline.
Take away the opioids and the brain still pumps out large amounts noradrenaline for about a week, which is what causes the intense physical symptoms of withdrawal.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include some of the following:
Some people have described opioid withdrawal as the worst flu they’ve ever had, combined with a psychological anxiety that makes them feel as if they’re going to die. Opioid withdrawal in and of itself is not usually fatal, but patients in the throes of the symptoms feel very real pain and agony in the extremes.
Detox from opiates often requires the use of other narcotics or benzodiazepines to manage symptoms that last approximately five days, before patients can move on to medically assisted treatment with buprenorphine (Suboxone) or Vivitrol.
The NSS-2 Bridge, however, has the potential to ease opioid detox symptoms without the use of other medications.
The small electrical pulses released by the Bridge target an area of the cranial nerve system known as the amygdala. This region of the brain regulates fear and is a key component in reward-seeking behavior related to addiction.
The amygdala is also rich in opioid receptors, which is why it produces an overabundance of stress-inducing hormones when an opioid-addicted patient stops using prescription painkillers, heroin or other opiates.
“University-based research studies indicate that the Bridge sends gentle electrical impulses to areas of the brain and branches of nerves leading into the spinal chord via [electrodes attached to the skin] near nerve endings found in and around the ear, effectively aiding in the reduction of symptoms of opioid withdrawal in often as little as 10 minutes,” according to the company that developed the device.
Always on the cutting edge of addiction treatment modalities, Dr. Akikur Mohammad, founder and CEO of Inspire Malibu, has been trained in the use of the Bridge and is now making it available to patients at Inspire Malibu treatment facilities.
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