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21st Century Therapy – Virtual Reality For Addiction

21 October 2014 by NCCMMS

MedicalModSim.com is happy to welcome our new contributor Laura Chapman!


21st Century Therapy – Virtual Reality For Addiction


Although the world around us is changing at an incredibly fast pace, sometimes it has seemed as though in certain areas, such as mental health therapy things were at a stalemate in terms of new treatments for conditions such as addiction. Traditional twelve step programmes or cognitive behavioural therapy have been used on many patients to great effect, but there is always a need and a demand for something new and innovative that can help people for whom these approaches haven’t worked as well as they should.


The University of Houston may just have come up with a solution and a new way forward for treating patients with addiction problems. Called Virtual Reality Therapy, this system, created by Patrick Bordnick, uses headsets, motion capture suits and even scent machines to help recreate a “virtual world” to treat people who are suffering from specific addictions to substances such as marijuana and now even heroin. Bordnick recruited a team of former users and addicts and asked them to act out their drug taking rituals, these were filmed and digitized.


When patients came forward suffering from specific addictions, they were given the headset and put into a situation in which drugs might be commonplace – such as at a party. By being exposed to this kind of stimulation, along with the smells from the scent machine, it kicked their cravings off – but instead of giving in to them, they were forced to confront and deal with their thought processes and feelings instead. Over time, and more exposure – the cravings diminish and the sufferer feels no need to take drugs any more.


This type of therapy, while still in its relative infancy in terms of treating drug problems, has been used very successfully in a pilot study to help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder – namely those who have served their country in the armed forces and have returned unwell and suffering from crippling depression and anxiety. It is hoped further studies and research will prove this is the next step forward in creating new treatments for patients suffering from addictions 



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