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New device could aid in drug addiction recovery

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    The Bridge Device, about the size of a half-dollar coin, is worn behind a patient’s ear and could help drug addiction recovery.



LORAIN — A new device hitting opiate recovery circles could have the potential to reduce the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

The Bridge Device, which is about the size of a half-dollar coin, is worn behind a patient’s ear. Proponents say the device sends electrical stimulation to the brain that blocks the nerve pathways of discomfort and pain associated with opiate withdrawal.

The LCADA Way is in the process of learning more about the device and first caught word of it through Thom Grim, executive director of the Miami County (Ohio) Recovery Council. Like Lorain County, Miami County saw more than 100 overdose deaths in 2016.

Grim two of his organization’s clients with opiate dependency used the device at the end of 2016 and it was effective.

Although pleased with the results, Grim said there was a minor snag with the two clients on which the device was tested. The clients had to agree to be in withdrawal and schedule an appointment to have the device attached, he said, and both used drugs the day before the appointment to take the edge off.

Instead of presenting with moderate to severe withdrawal at the time of appointment, which is what the Bridge Device is designed for, the clients presented in mild withdrawal.

But Grim said he has watched case study videos about the device and talked to nurse practitioners in Kentucky and Indiana where the device is just starting to take off. They spoke highly of its effectiveness, he said.

It’s called a Bridge Device because it serves as a bridge to receiving injections of Vivitrol to curb cravings, Grim said. Grim said people must be off all opiates for seven to 14 days before Vivitrol can be introduced.

“This is trying to bridge the time from active addiction and the bulk of the withdrawal process until they have a chance to be eligible for a Vivitrol injection,” Grim said.

Grim said it’s believed the Bridge Device can take those with a moderate Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale score of 13 to 24, or a severe score of 36 or more, down to a score of 3 within 20 minutes.

Thomas Stuber, president and CEO of The LCADA Way, said he hopes to make the device available to patients as early as next month.

Ryan Kuhlman, president of Bridge Device manufacturer Acclivity Medical, showed off the product Friday during a presentation The Key, a LCADA residential treatment center.

A video of a patient in the first signs of withdrawal shows a dramatic change after just 10 minutes of wearing the device. The woman goes from shaky, sweating and crying to calm and happy wearing the Bridge.

“A patient shows up in active withdrawal, it takes 10 minutes for the device to start working and they will high-five you on the way out,” Kuhlman said.

The price per device is about $550, which Stuber said is much cheaper than paying for someone to go through withdrawal in a hospital at about $1,000 per day.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Grim said. “All these people have is a device attached to their ear and all of a sudden there’s no more hot and cold sweats, shaking, anxiety or sniffling. This is a game changer.”

It’s not considered a medical device yet, Grim said, and at the moment the Food and Drug Administration considers it in the same realm as acupuncture.

There’s a push to classify it as a neural modulator, which would make it more of a medical procedure, Grim said. This would then make the device accessible through insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

“They are getting close to reclassifying it in Indiana,” Grim said. “The hope is that other states will follow suit because then it is a reimbursable product.”

Jodi Weinberger contributed to this report. Contact Jon Wysochanski at Follow him at @JonWysochanski.

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