According to the Daily Mail, virtual reality worlds are teaching coping strategies to people battling addiction. In North Carolina, researchers hooked subjects up to virtual worlds that replicate the settings in which they obtain and use drugs.
These virtual worlds are mostly used to treat alcoholics and smokers, but now worlds for cocaine and heroin users are being created. They can be tailored to the exact specifications of a subject’s memory, with paraphernalia and substances they’d typically ask for in the real world.
This virtual methodology is called cue reactivity, in which the ‘cue’ is the trigger that sets off substance use, and the reactivity is the reaction that cue creates. Cue reactivity has been mostly used to treat phobias (like arachnophobia) slowly acclimating the patients to their triggers until they can cope with them.
Learning to acclimate is part of addiction treatment, as addicts try to develop tools that can help them get through real world cues without succumbing to their old habits. “Virtual reality offers is the closest possible version of the real thing while still remaining controlled.”
Researchers say it’s too new to know the precise effectiveness of virtual worlds. For now, they’re considered supplemental with more traditional forms of addiction treatment.
Yay or nay: do you think these virtual experiments sound like a good idea?