The FDA has recently approved NSS-2 Bridge (NSS stands for “Neurostimulation System”), an electric stimulation device that has initially been approved in 2014 to relieve chronic and acute pain to be now utilized in the treatment of opioid addiction to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. With the opioid epidemic affecting millions of Americans each year, finding innovative ways to improve the outcome of therapeutic treatment is paramount. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says that in his reasons for approving this device is that while research is continuing to find better medicines to treat opioid use disorder, we also need to look at other treatment options as well. The approval of the NSS-2 Bridge for use as part of a detox treatment process will make the device eligible for coverage under many insurance plans which makes the Bridge more affordable for those who wish to utilize the device.
NSS-2 Bridge works by sending small electrical signals to the brain via a person’s ear to stimulate branches of certain cranial nerves. Such stimulations have provided relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms in many patients already. Patients can use the device for up to five days during the acute physical withdrawal phase. Opioid withdrawal causes acute physical withdrawal symptoms including sweating, gastrointestinal upset, nausea, anxiety, tremors, agitation, insomnia, and joint pain. These are the symptoms that have reportedly been decreased in the majority of people who used the device.
According to the FDA’s press release, the device’s effectiveness was approved based on the findings of research that included more than 73 patients. The trial found that 64 of the patients got relief from their withdrawal symptoms and were ready to move forward to medication-assisted therapy (such as Naltrexone) after using the device. This represented a success rate of 88 percent after the five-day trial. Other applications may include permanent abstinence rather than switching to a maintenance drug. However, many people are skeptical of the benefits of the device mainly because researchers did not include a control group. Critics of the device and the study say that you cannot know for sure that the device works without also testing a placebo device in the research. While it hasn’t been completely proven that the device works every time, it has been effective in enough cases to be considered as part of a solution to opioid addiction. For some, this may be a last resort, and as long as it is safe, anything that can increase the chances of recovery is worth trying.