Virtual reality simulations are already used to help people overcome phobias and other psychological conditions, and now researchers believe that the technique has promise for treating people with addiction.
According to a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers believe that by exposing people to triggering situations, they can reduce cravings for alcohol.
During the experiement, researchers conducted brain scans of 10 patients who were being treated for alcoholism. The brain scans showed patterns that indicated cravings for alcoholism. Then, the subjects underwent virutal reality therapy, being exposed to three different situations – a relaxing environment, a “high-risk” environment where other people were drinking, and one where people were getting sick from having consumed too much alcohol.
After the virtual reality therapy, the patients showed a decreased craving for alcohol in their brain scans.
Researchers called for larger studies that look into the effects that virtual reality therapy can have on alcoholism and addiction.