Using Virtual Reality to Treat Addiction
New research indicates that “virtual reality” may play an important role in addiction recovery in the future. Researchers in South Korea conducted a multiple week experiment with 3D television screens which showed a reduction in alcohol cravings, Reuters reports.
Researchers studied 10 patients, all of which had an alcohol use disorder. First, the patients went through a week-long detox program. After detox, the patients began the virtual reality sessions which consisted of three different types, twice a week for five weeks. The types of reality sessions included:
- A Relaxation Session
- A Situation Which Triggered Alcohol Cravings
- A Reality Which Made Drinking Seem Unpleasant
The third reality involved aversion stimulation; the participants were given a vomit-tasting drink. Over the course of the sessions, brain scans indicated changes in areas of the brain thought to be sensitive to alcohol, according to the article. Lead researcher Dr. Doug Hyun Han of Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul found that after participants were exposed to the unpleasant drinking scene, there were indications of reduced alcohol cravings. Han points out that more research is required to determine the efficacy of virtual reality as viable treatment method.
“Although this pilot study seems to indicate that virtual reality may produce some changes in brain metabolism, this is not yet studied as a treatment approach,” said Dr. Bernard Le Foll, head of the Alcohol Research and Treatment Clinic at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, who was not involved in the study.
“Much more research work needs to be done to be able to determine if ‘virtual reality’ treatment will have a place in the treatment of alcohol use disorder,” in western countries, he told Reuters.
The research will be published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Alcohol use disorders affect millions of Americans. If you are struggling with alcohol, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. At Synergy Group Services we offer individualized treatment plans for the treatment of alcoholism.