The newest innovative drug treatment approach is now streaming online, Virtual Reality (VR) Addiction Treatment.
VR is currently the next generation of video gaming, but now VR is slowly leaking into practical uses like treatments for phobias, social fears, and now for drug addiction. Although, the VR equipment being used by clinicians is more complicated than just sights and sounds that the typical gaming VR headset comes with.
To add more “reality” to the virtual reality, scientists have implemented a scent machine to simulate smells of alcohol or cigarettes for clients. The programming itself does not abide by a predetermined script so that clients can experience real-time responses to their unique choices in the simulation. When sights, high-quality sounds, and targeted smells are all added together, the client practically transports to whatever environment the clinician wants them to be in.
Before VR, clinicians would operate with cue presentations, which are pictures of the drug or the action of handing the patient a bottle of alcohol. These cues would prove the most difficult for clients to ignore and would provoke cravings for the drug.
With VR, however, clients can experience the full environment of their drug use in an attempt to overcome any environmental cues that could provoke their relapse in real life after they leave the treatment center. The problem before was that clients would overcome their addiction within the treatment center, but upon returning home, where they used regularly, all the familiar environmental stimuli served as cues to start using again.
VR can eliminate the fake lab environment when overcoming addiction by replacing that environment with a more close-to-home experience so that when the client leaves, they will be prepared to face any cue.
Newest Study with VR Drug Treatment
The University of Houston Graduate School has been working on implementing VR for the use of heroin addiction. “Our current studies focus on alcohol. In the future, we’ve got several studies looking at injection drug use, people that are using heroin and opiates,” Patrick Bordnick, Ph.D., a UH Social Work Professor said, “Using the same technology and methodology of studying craving in the lab, and then also teaching people skills to not use in relapse.”
This lab, at the University of Houston, was the very first lab to use VR in treating addiction. Clients come to this lab for a 45-minute session and virtually experience high-risk situations where they would likely relapse in real life, and the therapist trains them, during this process, with skills to avoid relapse.
The beauty of using VR is that instead of taking patients to a real environment, like a bar, they can digitally recreate the drug use setting in a safe, controlled lab environment with the same effects as the actual setting.
Now, UH is working on floor-to-ceiling projection screens to create a virtual 3-D environment that requires the user to wear 3-D glasses, but without the need for VR headsets.
Then and Now
Research into VR drug addiction treatment used to be focused on nicotine and alcohol dependency, but now researchers are looking into addictions to injection drugs.
Asana Recovery provides a comprehensive treatment program for people who struggle with substance abuse. Each program was created to fit the specific needs of each client so that each individual seeking help can get the solutions that will work for them. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, please call us today at 949-438-4504 and speak with one of our caring admissions counselors. We are available around the clock.