Virtual Reality Therapy
As many people know, during the withdrawal process and addiction treatment, it is best to avoid places, things, persons that trigger substance abuse and cause relapse. But did you know that you may treat your drug or alcohol addiction by looking on purpose at bottles, glasses of alcohol, drug doses, and at people that use them in large quantities? No, it’s not a joke, and its possible with virtual reality therapy.
Virtual reality therapy (VRT), also called “immersive multimedia”, is a form of psychotherapy. It uses virtual reality technology to simulate real-life experiences. Professionals use these simulated experiences to diagnose and treat psychological conditions that cause patients difficulty.
This type of therapy was first used to train pilots, and to treat patients with
- anxiety disorders,
- and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The therapy is quite simple. Researchers build realistic virtual worlds that re-create triggers. According to the researchers and study results, patients have to go through a week-long detox program, and attend 10 sessions of VRT, done twice a week for five weeks. One session implies three different virtual scenes:
- in a relaxing environment;
- in a “high-risk” situation — the patients are in a restaurant where other people are drinking;
- “aversive” situation — patients are surrounded by sights, sounds, and smells of people getting sick from too much alcohol or drugs.
According to the studies’ results, before experiencing VRT’s effects on addicts, patients underwent different tests, brain scans. These allowed the researchers to study the patients’ brain metabolism. In comparison with healthy people, investigators discovered that addicts have a faster metabolism in the brain’s circuits. This means that they are more sensitive to stimulants like alcohol or drugs.
After attending a virtual-reality therapy, the results have shown that brain metabolism had slowed, which suggests a subsided craving for drugs or alcohol.