EXCLUSIVE: Electrical pain device successfully guides patients through heroin withdrawal

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 18:06:35-04

Addiction specialists are extremely encouraged by the initial results of a new treatment for opioid withdrawal that involves a small device that sends electrical signals to the brain.

The LCADA Way recovery facility in Lorain County is the first in our area to begin testing the BRIDGE medical device on recovering addicts.

The device sits behind that ear and gives out repeated electrical impulses that go to the pain center of the brain and should result in a reduction of pain that the addict experiences during withdrawal.

“It was like instant relief within 20 minutes,” said recovering heroin addict Candace Strautihar. She was one of the first 9 patients to use the device.

Strautihar said that the excruciating pain of withdrawal kept her from getting help over the last 8 years.She started using pain pills as a teenager and turned to heroin about two years ago. 

“Getting high is like a job,” she said. “You’re chasing it all the time. I just wanted to stop.”

Strautihar tried to detox twice unsuccessfully before for trying the BRIDGE. She wore the device for 5 days and experienced minimal withdrawal symptoms.

“It felt amazing to be able to feel that way,” she said.

Strautihar’s physician, Dr. Cynthia Brown, told News 5 she’s very encouraged by the results so far.

“For the right population, it’s been a game changer,” Brown said. 

She cautioned that patients have to be experiencing full withdrawal symptoms to use the device. Pregnant patients, patients with bleeding or seizure conditions, or patients with other implantable electrical devices are not good candidates.

“It’s a crucial step on the road to recovery, but patients still have a long road maintaining their sobriety,” she said.

Strautihar started using a prescription opiate receptor blocker at the end of the BRIDGE device treatment. She’s been drug-free for more than a month.

“The thoughts don’t even come to my mind anymore,” she said.

Dr. Brown said side effects of the device are minimal and include dizziness, fainting, and sometimes an allergic reaction to the adhesive or tape used to attach it.