Virtual Reality for Individuals With Substance Use Disorders

Julie Worley
Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 2019 June 1, 57 (6): 15-19
Substance use disorders (SUDs) remain difficult to treat, with relapse rates averaging 50% despite available treatment. There is a need for new and novel treatment for treating SUDs. The use of virtual reality (VR) shows promising results as a strategy to help patients with SUDs manage cravings, say no to substance use, reduce stress and anxiety, treat pain, learn life skills, exercise, and use as a substitute for substance use. In VR, patients use a head-mounted device to experience computer-generated 360° simulated environments. Studies have shown that VR activates some of the same areas of the brain that substances activate. The science and technology of VR is evolving, resulting in more affordability, but the price is likely still a barrier for most treatment providers and patients. In addition, applications used to treat SUDs were developed for use in research and are not currently available for public use. More rigorous studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of VR as a treatment for SUDs. [Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 57(6), 15-19.].


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