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Developing Medical Devices for Drugs and Alcohol Detoxification

By Vikram Tarugu, M.D.
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In order to continue to provide high quality treatment to patients, innovation must continue.

The number of detox patients suffering from addiction has been rising every year. The steady increase of detox patients has made it necessary to develop more effective treatment methods and devices. Detox is often characterized by withdrawal effects and other life-threatening conditions. This article will analyze key areas in the detoxification process that need further input from developers of medical devices. Innovations in these fields could add value to patients and detox facility managers.

According to a national survey on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 23.5 million people in the United States aged 12 and above need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Less than 12% of them actually received treatment at a specialty center in 2010. The number of detox and rehabilitation patients has been on a steady increase since then. A large percentage of these patients suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms.

If not monitored and treated, withdrawal symptoms can have life-threatening consequences. Clinicians and detox facility managers should have updated medical equipment. This helps to prevent, detect and treat withdrawal symptoms. With the right equipment and devices, a detox facility can cut hospitalization costs. It will also reduce avoidable fatalities.

Major Areas of Concern in Developing Drug and Alcohol Detox Devices

Every piece of equipment in a detox facility serves an important function. All devices found at a detox facility are important. Everything from measuring cylinders and dispensing pumps to heart rate monitors and resuscitation equipment play a key role in helping patients overcome substance abuse problems. Drug and alcohol detox and treatment centers stand to benefit more with further innovations in the following fields:

  • Diagnostic-therapeutic devices
  • Devices that help to ease withdrawal symptoms
  • Audio-visual brain stimulation devices
  • Neuro Jet Therapy devices

Diagnostic Therapeutic Devices

In my experience as the founder of a drug and alcohol detox center, I have learned that a medical facility is as good as its diagnostic and therapeutic systems, not forgetting the people who run it. I have learned to stay updated with the latest trends and innovations in diverse fields. It is important to keep tabs on relevant technologies such as automated laboratory systems, electrocardiography (ECG) equipment, ultrasound research technology and apparatus, electroencephalography (EEG) devices, oxygen therapy inhaler devices, cardio-respiratory monitors, and a wide range of physiotherapy equipment. There is a need for more innovation in these areas of detox and addiction treatment. With more advanced devices, detox facilities will continue to provide high-quality treatment.

Devices that Help Ease Withdrawal Symptoms

To give credit where it is due, medical equipment developers are making commendable efforts to ensure detox patients undergo the least discomfort during withdrawal. A good example is a device known as the Bridge Auricular Stimulator, also called the Bridge. This is a detox treatment device that uses neurostimulation to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. The patient wears the device around the ear while undergoing detox. The device works by releasing gentle electrical impulses that stimulate specific brain regions. The impulses help to block pain and discomfort due to the withdrawal of heroin and other opioids.

The Bridge is a small device, around two inches wide. It has electrodes attached inside the ear. The electrodes target cranial nerves that cause withdrawal effects. It is a disposable unit and is only used once. Most patients use it for the first five days of detox, or for the entire detox treatment duration. The patient can remove the device after the withdrawal stage. He or she can then progress to the medication and counseling phases of treatment.

The Bridge is a product of Innovative Health Solutions. The company actually derived the concept from its previous product known as Electro Auricular Device, which uses the same auricular stimulation method to treat chronic non-drug related pains.

Audio-Visual Brain Stimulation Devices

Audio-visual brain stimulation devices keep patients in a balanced psycho-emotional state. It is quite useful during the withdrawal process. When the audio-visual signals pass through the patient’s senses, they alter the brain’s electrical activity. Varying the intensity and frequency of the signals either activates or inhibits the patient’s mental processes. In normal situations, people react to tactile or audio-visual stimulation instinctively. For example, people love to watch the glare of fireworks or the burning flame of a candle. The attraction is due to visual stimulation. Crackling fireworks or the splash of a waterfall sounds awesome. It is a reaction to audio stimulation. The brain’s electrical activity can also cause the same calming or exciting effect. Electrical activity in the brain creates a relaxed state called alpha.

Alpha state dominates a person’s brain in a frequency range of between 8 and 12 Hz. It can subdue pathological activities in zones of the brain impaired by alcohol or drugs. It sends the brain, and the body, into a state of rest and eliminates anxiety. Audio-visual stimulation therapy devices help to control a patient’s psycho-emotional state. The devices help to overcome physical and emotional discomforts due to withdrawal. Unlike the use of medications, this form of therapy does not cause dependence. More advanced devices and equipment in this field will enhance the detox industry.

Neuro Jet Therapy Devices

Many detox centers use Neuro Jet therapy to treat drug and alcohol withdrawal. The Neuro Jet is a portable fifth-generation nerve stimulator that is small enough to fit in a belt bag. It has contact electrodes attached to the skin around the earlobe. It holds to the earlobe using a sticky patch. The Neuro Jet provides painless nerve stimulation. It feels like a slight tingling sensation or vibration. A computer controls the intensity and frequency of the electrical impulses. The device has a small display on its front. The screen shows when the device is active, stimulation levels are high, and when the battery runs low.

A detox patient wears the device for 24 hours in the first few days of treatment. He or she can sleep without the device after the third day and only use it when signs of withdrawal effects show up. This kind of therapy gives patients the freedom to eat, move and exercise. The patient can engage in every kind of activity. He or she does not have to worry about the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Neuro Jet therapy is not an electric convulsion procedure. It doesn’t disturb the patient’s consciousness. Similar inventions would be beneficial to detox patients. They would be able to walk, eat, and perform other essential tasks with less restraint. A more advanced form of the Neuro Jet nerve stimulator would be a welcome idea, too.

Conclusion

Every gadget used in the detox process is as important as the medications used in treatment. A detox center is a complex but humane facility with inter-dependent parts. All the parts work together for the benefit of its patients. The center’s employees cannot provide high-quality services without the latest equipment. Advanced medical devices are as important as the skills and knowledge of the facility’s staff. It is thus important for developers of medical devices to focus on detox equipment too.

About The Author

Vikram Tarugu, Detox of South Florida

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