Pain-free detox device now available in Knoxville

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Battling drug addiction in East Tennessee is difficult, but the process of ending drug use can be even worse. The process is commonly known as detox, and for some people, the symptoms of detox are scary.

Local 8 News Anchor Lauren Davis explored a Knoxville clinic that is trying to help people quit, while keeping the pain away.

It looks like a hearing aid, but experts say a new small machine has big effects. It's called The Bridge device, and it's designed to help drug addicts detox without feeling any pain. That means no fatigue, sweating, vomiting or hallucinations associated with quitting cold turkey.

"Many people want to go to recovery and they want to be clean, but don't want to go through pain of withdrawals," said Lewis Frazer with The Goodman Center.

This device, which is FDA cleared but not approved, has four leads that attach to the patient's ear, blocking pain signals from getting through to the brain. It's so new, The Goodman Center has only put The Bridge on one patient, and that person didn't want to talk.

A patient in Kentucky said this before he received the device: "I'm not feeling well. I have cold sweats, hot and cold at the same time, and I'm yawning."

Then, after just 30 minutes with the device he said, "The difference between night and day. It's something else. I can't believe it. I can have a conversation with you and smile and laugh. That wasn't possible 20 minutes ago."

Using the device typically lasts for five days before the user transitions to the Vivitrol shot, which lasts 28 days and blocks the effects of opioids to ensure the user remains clean. The Bridge can be used while a person is still using drugs, but ready to quit.

"For any patient, the prerequisite is they are ready to make a change," said Frazer.

The Bridge device isn't covered by insurance. It's $1,500. If you need a second device because you're still experiencing detox symptoms, that would cost $750.