Groundbreaking device available in Louisville for drug abuse tre - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Groundbreaking device available in Louisville for drug abuse treatment

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – New cutting-edge technology is available at a Louisville recovery center to help heroin addicts break the cycle of addiction.

The Neuro-stim System Bridge, better known as a “Bridge,” is now being used in some of the substance abuse treatment programs at the Centerstone Addiction Recovery Center, formerly JADAC.

The Bridge is a groundbreaking, non-narcotic device that can help manage pain that often comes with heroin and opioid withdrawal.

For treatments like a Vivitrol shot to be effective, recovering addicts need to be opioid-free for about a week. Detoxing from heroin can be the most difficult and painful part of the process.

“They're shaking,” said Amanda Newton with the Addiction Recovery Center as she explained what it feels like to withdrawal. “They're vomiting, they're sick, they're sweating. It's like the worst flu that's ever been experienced. And all they want to do is ‘use’ to stop that kind of pain."

The hope is using the Bridge will eliminate the pain of withdrawals so more patients can have a better chance at a successful treatment. The device works by targeting the brain. The battery is placed behind the ear and the prongs are attached to four different places on the ear. Those prongs send electric pulses to the brain, essentially, stopping the brain from firing off pain signals.

"Most people that come in, they're in a great deal of pain,” Newton said. “And that's a lot of time why we see people leave treatment. So we're hoping this will help people and engage people into treatment."

The battery dies in four to five days. If timed properly, that’s just long enough to get someone through withdrawal.

Beth McGill is the nurse manager of addiction at Centerstone. She, along with other medical staff, tested the Bridge. McGill said she wanted to make sure she knew what it felt like so she could prepare patients.

She could feel an initial prick as the prongs were attached, but she said it didn’t hurt, and it didn’t leave any marks. At first, she could feel little "zaps and zings" on her ear. She said it doesn’t take long for the body to get used to the electric pulses.

"After the first hour, the pain starts to go down a bit from the little ‘zing’ that's going to your ear,” McGill said. “Then after a couple hours, it just feels like a grasshopper is on your ear. And then the next day, you really don't feel it at all."

McGill said she had some lower back pain. But after a few days wearing the Bridge, she could tell she was feeling less pain. McGill said another employee, who suffers from chronic pain in her neck and back, said the pain in her neck was gone when she was wearing the Bridge.

Centerstone just started using the device in the past week or so, and Newton believes it is making a difference already. She said one man started using it but then decided he didn’t want it anymore.

"He decided to take it off, and his pain skyrocketed,” Newton said. “He realized just how much that device was working for him."

McGill said because many people don’t feel anything, they believe the device isn’t working, so they’ll take it out before the battery dies. When they remove the Bridge, they’ll start feeling pain again. In reality, McGill explained, the device is working exactly how it should when a patient doesn’t feel anything.

The Bridge is available for patients to use as a tool in their in-patient or out-patient programs. But it is also being tested in a group of people to track results. Leaders at Centerstone hope the results will help them get a grant to provide more Bridges at a lower cost to patients.

Many other treatment plans cost upwards of $10,000 each month. It costs $750 for the Bridge device plus the doctor visits. Even though it is new, many insurance companies intend to help cover the cost. Centerstone is working with some insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare to provide more options.

Click here for information on Centerstone and how to find a treatment program that can work for you.

The Bridge is manufactured in Versailles, Ind. For more background information on the device, click here.

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