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How virtual reality helps with addiction recovery

How virtual reality helps with addiction recovery


How fantastic would it be to imagine that virtual reality could help with addiction recovery? Yet, that seems to be the case. Virtual reality is clinically effective in helping people recover from substance abuse disorder. In the VR, they see their healthy future selves, encouraging them to make better choices now in order to truly live out that reality.

But it doesn't end there. Many people are now using Virtual reality to treat other mental health problems.

Virtual reality as a rising solution to mental health disorders

Virtual reality is now commonly used for treating many mental health challenges, including phobia, PTSD, and pain after surgery. Although the use is getting increasingly popular, it's yet to be tested in substance use disorders. And that's what led Brandon Oberlin and a group of researchers to conduct the research. The result was amazingly positive.

"Capitalizing on VR's ability to deliver immersive experience showing otherwise-impossible scenarios, we created a way for people to interact with different versions of their future selves in the context of substance use and discovery," said Oberlin.

How does virtual reality help with addiction recovery?

Virtual reality can aid addiction recovery by lowering the risk of relapse and encouraging patients to connect with their future selves. When a patient interacts with their healthy future self, they become less inclined to use harmful substances again (relapse). They tend to make better choices to realize that reality.

The researchers made it possible by creating different versions of each participant resulting from different life choices. The result is easy to see; if you know what each decision you make now will lead to in the future, you will likely make the one that will benefit you in the long term.

Relapse is arguably the biggest challenge people face during recovery. Due to the withdrawal symptoms, some patients are pressed to use the substance to feel better. But that good feeling only lasts for the short term. In the long run, their health gets worse.

It is these long-term rewards that virtual reality helps addiction patients to see. Indeed, one's future outlook on life plays a huge role in how one recovers from substance use disorder.

The best time to use VR for addiction recovery

The best time to use VR for addiction recovery is the early stages of recovery -- this is when people are most prone to relapse. The immersive experience from VR can help them choose long-term rewards over short-term pleasure from substance use.

This finding is revolutionary treating substance abuse disorder, and the research is getting heavy funding from the National Institutes of Health to further develop the technology.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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