Virtual reality is not just about video gaming or entertainment, it has also emerged as an innovative tool in healthcare. Some Chinese facilities have started using virtual reality for drug rehabilitation.
“For now, we mainly use VR treatment for methamphetamine addicts. It is easy for meth addicts to quit the drug physically, but not psychologically,” said Xia Xia, a therapist at the Liangzhu center.
Meth addicts show fewer withdrawal symptoms than heroin users. “Using VR helps them cut their psychological reliance on the drug,” Xia said.
According to Xinhua News Agency’s report, there are over 1,100 patients at the center. Virtual reality treatment is introduced to patients who have undergone a typical detox program for at least a year.
The patients participate in virtual reality treatment sessions where they are exposed to three immersive videos for about 20 minutes in total.
Dr. Wang Yongguang, an expert with the Zhejiang Provincial Rehabilitation Management Bureau, who helped develop the VR treatment says “progressively playing videos aims to help patients turn their reliance on drugs into hate and fear of drugs.”
For many years, virtual reality simulations have been used to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) phobias or fears.
Skip Rizzo, a research scientist at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies says “Virtual reality can be used in pain distraction, exposure theraphy (fear of flying, public speaking, etc.) cognitive assessment, attention deficit and virtual human work.”
According to Rizzo, built upon these five areas medical experts can define up to 20 sub categories to treat with virtual reality. Like PTSD treatment or autism job interview.