Innovation That Matters

Virtual reality cave could help drug addiction recovery

Sport & Fitness

The Virtual Reality Cave puts recovering addicts in high-stimulus environments, so they can learn coping mechanisms.

Helping addicts to recover from difficult alcohol and drug addictions remain a problem for medical professionals and social workers around the world. In the US, there are an estimated 24 million illegal drugs users, some of whom will develop addictions that can be costly for health care systems, and cause serious problems for themselves and their society. But virtual reality technology is offering new ways for doctors and therapists to treat addiction.

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a new virtual reality ‘cave’ to try and treat drug dependency. In the VR game, participants are placed into life-like scenarios where they are offered drugs or alcohol so they can develop ways to say no.

The ‘cave’ is outfitted with eight infrared cameras that follow the movement of the study participant, who wears headsets to see the VR world in 3D. Users are tempted to relapse via characters and situations in the game, and the doctors at the university believe this can help them learn better coping mechanisms. Currently, recovering addicts role-play with therapists to simulate risky environments, but the game will provide a more realistic experience.

We have already seen a virtual reality game help burn victims reduce their pain during treatment. How else can VR be applied to both mental and physical wellbeing?



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