Treating addiction through virtual reality

One of the criticisms those who achieve recovery through the rooms can often level at those who find it through rehab is that they are protected from the realities of the outside world. This can sometimes be necessary for those who need the time away to focus on getting well. Most rehabs will attempt to combat this by trying to maintain a semblance of everyday life, encouraging clients to cook and do chores, or encouraging them to attend fellowship meetings. Addiction Helper can also provide one-to-one counselling for when a client has left rehab so they have someone supporting them whilst they find a sponsor. However, an American organisation (The National Institute on Drug Abuse) has been experimenting with treating addiction through virtual reality which may eliminate the concern around the “cotton wool” nature of some rehab facilities.

Treating addiction through virtual reality involves exposing a client to a potential relapse environment. The environment they witness is one that is designed to set off all those triggers that caused them to use before. The person conducting the experiment will then work with the client on coping strategies and talk them through the situation until the inevitable cravings have subsided a little. The idea is that exposing clients to this environment whilst there is a safety net will enable them to make the right choices if they are confronted with this situation once they have left treatment.

That being said, there are no guarantees that having worked through this situation in rehab the person will be able to avoid using once back in the real world, exposure therapy has been found to be successful in a variety of other arenas. Those using exposure therapy to help with arachnophobia will have been confronted with spiders and calmed down numerous times so that they are able to remain calm when faced with the situation in real life. The same principle is being applied to treating addiction through virtual reality.

I am all for this therapy in conjunction with the more traditional types of support on offer. I believe that any tool out there that increases the chances of sustaining sobriety should be welcomed with open arms. What do you think? Do you think interventions may be the solution?


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