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Virtual reality for addiction

20 Mar Using Virtual Reality to Treat Addiction

In the fight against the spread of addiction, we can’t get tied down to old ways of doing things, as the success rates of many practices can leave a lot to be desired. Any new research in the field of addiction recovery is very welcome, and indeed, there is a large variety of different research going on in the worth today. One such direction of research is in the field of virtual reality, and the ways that it can help addicts develop coping mechanisms to prevent a relapse. This particular blend of technology and recovery has seen some success in recent years. Let’s examine how it might go even further…

Research into health applications for virtual reality

The road to using virtual reality for medical purposes actually started in an attempt to create a tool that could help veterans with PTSD deal with past traumatic events. The way this is done may seem counter intuitive, though. Rather than avoiding the imagery that generated the trauma in the first place, virtual reality treatment seeks to bring the patient into the setting of their experiences. By doing this, doctors have been able to help veterans separate themselves and their actions from the stimulation. This has helped show that the present situation is not harmful to them.

How it works for addiction

Essentially, the way that virtual reality can work for addiction is quite similar to the way that it works for helping veterans get over PTSD, except with the added element of virtual temptation. To treat recovering addicts, researchers have created virtual environments that contains cues that can cause a relapse, in the moment. Examples of these cues involve settings where a substance might be found, as well as the substance itself. By recreating these triggers, recovering addicts are able to better recognize these triggering moments, and are able to step outside of the moment to see the broader context of these actions.

Concerns about this new method

While it remains to be seen how successful this new method of approaching addiction can be, there are those who have concerns about its viability. Many people think that putting recovering addicts in realistic scenarios with intense triggers might have an adverse effect on their treatment. There is the added element that those who use virtual reality may only do so for 15-20 minutes before they begin to feel ill. Tampering with someone’s perception of reality in this way is relatively new, and lots of research still needs to be done before we know if it is a viable treatment option.

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