Tag Archives: Drug Rehab

nerve stimulator for opioid withdrawal

FDA Approves Nerve Stimulator for Opioid Withdrawal

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval for a specialized tool that will be used to help US patients addicted to prescription pain medications and get them off opioids.

The newly-approved device delivers electric pulses to the area behind the patient’s ear. This electric pulse triggers a current which travels to the person’s occipital nerves (the ones reaching from the spinal cord to the back of the neck) and cranial nerves. It functions as a PNFS (Percutaneous Nerve Field Stimulator) device system and stimulates the patient’s brain to mask opioid withdrawal symptoms.

This medical device has been named the NSS-2 Bridge (NSS stands for “Neurostimulation System”.) Research shows that when used over a five-day treatment period, the process can be effective. The device is used during the period when an opiate-dependent person is likely to experience the most intense pain, as well as body tremors and sweating, during withdrawal.

Seventy-three patients were involved in the trials to determine the device’s effectiveness. Close to one-third (31 percent) of the participants noticed a reduction in symptoms within half an hour of getting the device. The trial found that 64 of the patients got relief and were ready to move forward to medication-assisted therapy after using the device. This represented a success rate of 88 percent after the five-day trial. However, other applications may include permanent abstinence rather than switching to a maintenance drug.

The FDA has decided to approve the device, even though the results of the study are limited. Further trials will be undertaken to evaluate its effectiveness in various settings.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in his reasons for approving the new device that there is a need for finding new ways of helping people who are addicted so that they can achieve sobriety with “medically assisted treatment.” He went on to say that while research is continuing to find better medicines to treat opioid use disorder, medicine also needs to look to devices to help as well.

Finding alternative methods of treating opioid dependency is a major topic of discussion regarding dealing the epidemic our nation faces. In addition to helping people get off these drugs, it is imperative to find more ways to reduce or avoid using these highly addictive substances.

immigration drug abuse

Immigration Does Not Cause Surge in Drug Abuse or Drug Availability

In light of many heated debates regarding immigration and its impact on the United States, a research group out of University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study to determine what, if any, effect immigrants had on the drug problems in this country. After gathering data from the Center for Migration Studies and Pew Research Center, they were able to determine that immigration does not actually effect drug use and drug availability in the United States.

“This is an area where public and political debates have far outpaced the research. And central to this debate is whether undocumented immigration increases drug and alcohol problems, or crime more generally. There are good theoretical reasons to think it could have increased substance abuse problems in recent decades. But the data just doesn’t show it,” commented Professor Michael Light, lead researcher of the study. The results of his research appeared in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers were able to come to this conclusion after comparing undocumented immigrants to the four major criteria that is most affected by drug use – drug crimes, driving under the influence arrests, drug overdose deaths and drunken driving fatalities. They found that undocumented immigrants are actually not engaging in these types of activities, and in fact are actually responsible in bringing down the national statistic. When the population is increased by 1% due to undocumented immigrants, there are 22 fewer drug arrests, 42 fewer drunken driving arrests and 0.64 fewer drug overdoses.

One possible explanation for this, it called the “healthy immigrant effect”, where it has been found that undocumented immigrants actually lead healthier lifestyles then people born in the United States.

Regardless of why undocumented immigrants are using less drugs and committing less crimes than Americans, the point of the study was to dispel some of the most common myths surrounding undocumented immigrants and their connection to illegal drugs. In an effort to better understand the drug problem in this country, it is important to focus on actual problems, rather than perceived problems.

benzo use brain changes

Study Cites Benzo Use as Cause for Brain Changes

benzo useA new research study has shown that benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, actually change the structure of the brain. This discovery could lead to further research regarding benzodiazepine addiction that can be explained by altered brain chemistry.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging, shows that long term use of benzodiazepines can change the caudate in the brain. The caudate is responsible for the reward system, a function of the brain that is often linked to addiction.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, gathered data from MRI scans of 38 people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The MRIs were taken when the subjects were 34-years-old and then again when they were 43-years-old. Comparing the MRIs showed distinct changes in the brains of those that were using benzodiazepines. In order for a study to be valid, researchers have to take into account age, illness, and medication dose, yet even with these adjustments, benzodiazepines still seem to have a major effect on the brain.

Because this is the first study that has analyzed the potential of benzodiazepines to change the structure of the brain, researchers are anxious to further their understanding of this new development.

“There is a need for understanding the mechanisms behind antipsychotic – and benzodiazepine – related structural and functional changes in the brain. Further studies should also focus on how medication-related structural alterations correspond to cognition and functioning,” explained the authors of the study. They also understand that there will need to be a more large-scale population to gather enough data to back up their initial findings more thoroughly.

However, the study is interesting because it may answer questions about the potential for benzodiazepine addiction. Medications like Xanax or Valium are highly addictive and oftentimes abused by people who do not have their own prescription for the drug. Traditionally prescribed to those that suffer from anxiety disorders, these drugs are oftentimes sold on the street to people looking for the high that benzodiazepines can provide.

It can also garner further insight into how to treat benzo addictions in terms of helping to rehabilitate the brain and repair lost function from the drugs.