I love to see new innovations in the domain of opioid withdrawal treatment. One of the newest inventions in this area is the NSS-2 Bridge, which is the first-ever FDA-approved device for treating the symptoms of acute withdrawal.
According to Innovative Health Solutions (the creators of the NSS-2 Bridge device), “The NSS-2 BRIDGE is a percutaneous nerve field stimulator (PNFS) device system, that can be used as an aid to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, through application to branches of Cranial Nerves V, VII, IX, and X, as well as branches of the occipital nerves identified by transillumination.”
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FDA Approval of The NSS-2 Bridge Device
According to the press release, “The FDA cleared the EAD (electro auricular device, now called Bridge Neurostimulation System) in 2014 for use in acupuncture. FDA’s granting of the current request for the NSS-2 Bridge expands the use of the device as an aid to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It is available only by prescription.”
Research Study on the NSS-2 Bridge for Opiate Withdrawal
Typically, to get FDA approval a medication or device would need to be tested in a randomized controlled trial. With the NSS-2 Bridge, however, there has been no such trial.
Instead, the FDA granted approval for the device to be used for opioid withdrawal based on data they reviewed from a single-arm clinical study of 73 patients undergoing opioid physical withdrawal.
The study evaluated patients’ clinical opiate withdrawal scale (COWS) score.
The COWS is a clinical assessment conducted by a health care professional that measures opioid withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Resting pulse rate
- Pupil size
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Bone and joint aches
The COWS score goes all the way up to 36, and the higher the score the worse the withdrawal severity.
Prior to receiving the NSS-2 Bridge device, the average COWS score was 20.1, and twenty minutes after the Bridge was placed, the average score dropped to 7.5. At 30 minutes, it was 4.0, and at 60 minutes it was 3.1.
How Does the NSS-2 Bridge Device Work?
The NSS-2 Bridge is a small electronic stimulator which is about the size of a hearing aid. Once the Bridge is inserted by a physician behind a patient’s ear, electrical pulses are painlessly delivered through the skin to four cranial nerves.
The Bridge is said to target an area of the brain called the amygdala, which is the place where fear originates. During opioid withdrawal, the amygdala goes haywire and fires off copious amounts of fear-generating hormones, and that’s one of the main reasons opioid withdrawal is so scary.
According to Innovative Health Solutions, “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.”
Where Can I Get the NSS-2 Bridge?
If you would like to use the Bridge for opiate withdrawal, you simply find a treatment program or private physician that offers this device as a form of treatment.
You can find it at various inpatient and outpatient programs, and some private doctors also carry the device for use in treating acute opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, since it is approved for acupuncture as well, you may be able to find an acupuncturist that can treat your withdrawal with the NSS-2 Bridge.
Side Effects and Contraindications
Skin irritation and a small amount of bleeding where the device rests behind the ear are the only found negative effects thus far. Furthermore, the NSS-2 Bridge is an electrical device, so one must be careful when wearing it.
It is water resistant but must be kept dry while showering. It is recommended that the patient cover the device with something plastic.
This device is not advised for patients with hemophilia, cardiac pacemakers, or psoriasis vulgaris.
It’s too bad you can’t buy the NSS-2 Bridge at Walgreens, Longs, and other drug stores over-the-counter without a prescription. In reality, however, the device is only provided with a doctor’s prescription.
It costs around $600, and the treatment duration is 5 days.
I wish there was a randomized controlled trial for the NSS-2 to have more credit, but I do love the results of the study mentioned above.
I also appreciate anecdotal evidence, and so far I’ve heard from one person that said the Bridge took away nearly all of their acute withdrawal symptoms.
Hopefully, in the future, a company will come out with a device that can be used for the post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which often linger for weeks to months after the acute withdrawal has ended.
While the NSS-2 Bridge can potentially help you feel a lot better during the first 5 days getting off opioids, the post-acute symptoms arise when the Bridge is removed after 5 days.
If you have any comments or questions on the NSS-2 Bridge device, please post them in the comment box below.