CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bridge gets you from one place to another.

That is how the BRIDGE device used by Saint Francis Hospital’s Addiction Healing Center to help opioid addicts get through withdrawal got its name.

The device is used to help patients get from whatever they are addicted to, to where they need to get to in the sobering process.

The hospital spoke for the first time Thursday about their experiences using the new ear device technology that works as a nerve-field stimulator to help reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

“The patients using this feel much better about themselves because the symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal are not as serve and in some instances completely obliterated by this device,” said Dan Lauffer, President of Thomas Health.

Thomas Health partnered with Innovative Health Solutions, the manufacturer of the device, to bring it to Saint Francis. The BRIDGE device is a device that is attached to the ear of a patient. They have it on for 5 days, helping the patients cope with withdrawals. It has 120 hours of battery life.

“It’s basically a percutaneous neo stimulator put on the ear,” Joe Deegan, the Business Development Liaison for the Addiction Healing Center at St. Francis Hospital, said. “It has stimulating electrodes that go right to the center of the brain where the withdrawal symptoms regarding opioid withdrawal are located and it basically blocks the symptomatology.”

Marion County native Daniel Tucker was one of the first patients to use the BRIDGE device at Saint Francis Hospital’s Addiction Healing Center and was on hand to talk about how it changed his life.

“If I can do anything to help someone else get the opportunity to utilize this new device, I am willing to do it,” he said.

“When you’re going through severe opioid withdrawal, you’re willing to try anything to help with the symptoms. They didn’t have to push me. I was more than willing to try it,  I tried it and got instant relief. It gave me the nudge I needed to keep going.”

Tucker got the edge when he entered the Saint Francis Hospital’s Addiction Healing Center on September 27 and got to use the device. He left the center on October 28 and feels like a new man.

“I feel better than I have in 10 years,” he said. “I am employable, just everything is going well for me. I came here to this hospital and had the device and got through the 28 days, my life gets better every single day.

“To people struggling, you can do it, anyone can do it. I didn’t think I could do it and it was wrong. As far as this device is concerned, anybody that fears the withdrawal and the nightmares ahead of you in opioid withdrawal, if this is available to you, utilize it. I am grateful for the technology.”

For many people addicted to opioids, like Tucker was, withdrawal symptoms can push them back to the addicting drugs. Symptoms hit quick in withdrawal and include sweating, restlessness, bone, and joint aches, tearing, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, and more. Lauffer pointed out during the presentation that the importance of the device is its quickness.

“These patients have an opportunity to talk to a counselor and get really motivated about entering treatment,” he said. “Many time patients will be in an opioid withdrawal and the first 24-48 hours it’s just so bad of a feeling, they would rather leave a hospital or treatment center and go back to the drugs they are on because they feel so bad.

“We’re trying to reach out in many ways to address the opioid problem in Charleston and West Virginia by providing some for different opportunities for other forms of treatment. We want to get them into treatment, keep them there and it leads to a better life.”

Over the last few months, psychiatrists in the Addiction Healing Center at Saint Francis Hospital have used the BRIDGE to successfully treat eight patients going through opioid withdrawal.

The FDA cleared the device in November 2017.

“It’s a great day for the Charleston community,” Lauffer said. “For our treatment being able to provide something different for patients going through opioid withdrawal. So we hope patients out there who have opioid withdrawal will call us, and when they come here for treatment, we can hopefully apply the bridge device and help them get through therapy.”

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