Many people learned new technologies on computers and cell phones during the pandemic. However, Zoom and other video sessions became indispensable for people in recovery, people with mental health disorders, and treatment professionals. Now, researchers want to take things a step further. They are currently working on creating therapeutic digital games and virtual reality simulations for people who struggle with substance use disorders.

Why VR And Addiction Recovery?

Researchers pay particular attention to statistics when it comes to medicine. Relapse rates are high during a person’s first year sober. People with substance use disorder often have a desire to use, even months after they’ve gone through the withdrawal and stayed sober.

People in recovery also have a lot of triggers that can make them desire to use again. Common triggers include emotions, seeing old drinking friends, and having a bad day. Addiction plays tricks on people.

People who have a substance use disorder often have a desire to use. A person who is struggling or having a bad day may wrestle with it before choosing to say. Or, if they are in relapse mode, it can become an excuse to use.

Researchers think virtual reality may help people act out scenarios that they find tempting. Then, they can gain confidence and security to say no by acting these scenarios out.

Saying “No” More Easily

Past research has shown that there is value in simulations. People gain confidence and build habits out of simulations, whether they believe they will or not. For example, a recent study shows simulating a person pushing away drinks at the bar helped people do the same in real life, although more studies are needed to see if this pattern would stick.

Apps, where people push away drinks in a virtual space may be helpful for people to say “No” but more sophistication is likely necessary to help people change habits and beliefs. These are often the core of helping people in recovery.

“We should be very critical and think about whether we are looking even in the right directions. Should we approach this from a different angle?” Dr. Janna Cousijn, a neuroscientist at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, said of the projects targeting addiction.