Wearable Device to Treat Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Approved By FDA

By Paul Fuhr 06/15/18

The device can curb anxiety, irritability, depression and opiate cravings without narcotics, according to its manufacturer.

Doctor giving a prescription to a patient

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared a wearable device (simply named “Drug Relief”) that reduces common opioid withdrawal symptoms, according to Markets Insider.

DyAnsys, the device’s manufacturer, claims the device will curb anxiety, irritability, depression and opiate cravings (among other such symptoms) without narcotics.

Available with a prescription, Drug Relief is an “auricular neurostimulation device,” which sends electrical pulses through ear-fitted needles to help ease detoxification. The device is intended to stabilize people during the earliest stages of withdrawal, according to the company's 501(k) application.

Drug Relief can be used continuously for up to five days, the manufacturer said in its press release, with relief reportedly starting 30 to 60 minutes after someone starts using the device.

DyAnsys added that the device was specifically designed to bring patients both mobility and comfort during detox.

In terms of opioid detoxification, Drug Relief is something of a game-changer since it’s a uniquely non-addictive treatment method.

"This device offers hope to those who are suffering from opioid addiction," DyAnsys CEO Srini Nageshwar noted. "We are in a full-blown crisis and we need non-narcotic options and alternatives like this that can make a significant difference for individual patients and their families.”

Just last month, the FDA also approved the first non-opioid medication to help manage opioid symptoms. And while Lofexidine (marketed under the brand name Lucemyra) alleviates the same things that Drug Relief does, it’s not intended to be a primary solution for opioid use disorder. Instead, the drug is intended to be part of a broader, more comprehensive treatment plan.

The successive FDA approvals of Drug Relief and Lucemyra, though, indicate that drug companies and the federal government alike are aggressively seeking creative solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“We’re dedicated to encouraging innovative approaches to help mitigate the physiological challenges presented when patients discontinue opioids,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “We’re developing new guidance to help accelerate the development of better treatments, including those that help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. We know that the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be one of the biggest barriers for patients seeking help and ultimately overcoming addiction.” 

And while Drug Relief is the first wearable device to manage opioid withdrawals, it’s not the first piece of wearable tech to help combat addiction.

SmartStop is a device that aims to help smokers kick their habit, delivering specific doses of nicotine before a craving kicks in, not to mention offering real-time support through an app.

Biochemical sensors that can detect alcohol in human sweat have also been developed, with some of them able to wirelessly alert people like probation officers if someone has been drinking.

Empatica’s E4 wristband can reportedly help predict a wearer’s risk of relapse, too, detecting symptoms like drops in skin temperature, increased motion, and heartbeat. 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.