The FDA approved a wearable device that blocks the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The Drug Relief device, which is manufactured by DyAnsys Inc., is an “auricular neurostimulation device” that can be prescribed to people in the detox phase of withdrawal.
Drug Relief works without narcotics or any medication. It is a small, metal device that clips onto the skin near a person’s ear, kind of like a hearing aid. The device sends electrical pulses through tiny needles inserted in the ear and can alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, depression, nausea, and opiate cravings within 30-60 minutes.
Drug Relief is described as “a percutaneous electrical nerve field stimulator designed to administer auricular neurostimulation treatment over 120 hours. The non-addictive treatment allows for continuous nerve stimulation over five days while offering the patient a high degree of comfort and mobility. According to providers, patients may see a reduction in the symptoms of opioid withdrawal within 30 to 60 minutes of beginning treatment.”
In the five-day period, when detox symptoms are blocked, the person using the device could undergo treatment for substance use disorder, get help for acute health problems, and participate in their own recovery. The first weeks of opiate withdrawal can be brutal, and many people say that they are afraid to try stopping because of the extreme detox symptoms. This is true whether the person wants to use medication-assisted treatment such as methadone, try quitting cold turkey, or use a doctor aided tapering program.
“This device offers hope to those who are suffering from opioid addiction,” said DyAnsys Chief Executive Officer Srini Nageshwar. “We are in a full-blown crisis and we need non-narcotic options and alternatives like this that can make a significant difference for individual patients and their families.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 11.5 million Americans age 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in 2016. More than 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The need for accessible, safe recovery support is apparent. Once a person is stabilized and able to participate in their own recovery by attending peer support groups, going to doctor’s appointments, eating and sleeping normally, and meeting with recovery mentors, their chances of avoiding a relapse increase.
Drug Relief is not the first device of its kind. The BRIDGE medical device, which is also FDA-approved, works through neuro-stimulation and is an auricular peripheral nerve field stimulator that connects topically to the patient’s ear, blocking pain signals from getting through the brain. Like Drug Relief, BRIDGE is also minimally invasive. Field research shows that, within half an hour of putting the device on, a person can go from extreme detox symptoms such as sweating and vomiting to talking and behaving normally.
Medical interventions such as these wearable devices help people make the most of the first days of their recovery and may take away the fear of discomfort that prevents some from attempting detox.