University Dean Believes Virtual Reality Can Be Used To Fight Addiction

A few years ago we reported on how virtual reality (VR) therapy could potentially help people with alcoholism or alcohol dependence. The study found then, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, came from a study of just 10 patients, but the researchers felt positive about the future of VR therapy for alcohol abuse cases. Now, years later, the Dean for the Tulane University’s School of Social Work believes that VR can definitely have a place in alcohol therapy.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Dean Patrick Bordnick believes in the power of the new technology to greatly aid alcohol dependence cases with virtual scenarios. Bordnick’s history with VR includes over a decade of investigating its uses in cognitive behaviour cases. Particularly, Bordnick looked at the potential for behavioural therapists to use the technology to help addicts cope with triggers that may cause them to relapse, but in a safe environment.

In addition to that, Bordnick is looking in to how VR can be used to help patients with autism better manage social situations.

Bordnick explains; “Fifteen years ago, the avatars were not realistic. Everything has been motion captured using real actors so that the patient and therapist can work together in a realistic environment that mirrors real life outside of the clinical setting.”

Bordnick continues; “Picture being able to practice what it’s like to venture into a party where you can walk into the crowd and interact. Or if you have a fear of public speaking, being able to stand in front of a virtual audience and practice your speech.”

Named Project Delta, the VR software takes users to setting that can trigger a relapse, such as a virtual bar where users can interact with patrons and order a drink. With a trained therapist observing the situation, they can better understand how the patient reacts in certain situations, while also acting as a guiding hand to move the user through the experience and deal with their triggers and urges. Another setting shows the exterior of a heroin den.

With Bordnick’s new advancements we’re sure that VR will be used for therapy cases more often in the near future, and hopefully provides a great relief to suffering addicts. For all of the latest VR health news, make sure to keep reading VRFocus.