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Virtual reality efficiency as exposure therapy for alcohol use: A systematic literature review.

Virtual reality is an immersive technology that can be used as a tool in the treatment of disorders linked to substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder. This systematic review of the literature examines the effectiveness of virtual reality as exposure therapy for heavy social drinkers, defined as people who regularly consume alcohol in a variety of social contexts, with or without a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. The current review includes ten studies with a total of 377 participants. Most participants were adult men (61.03%), with an age average of 44.1 years [± 7.42] and alcohol use ranging from light to heavy. Although studies show heterogeneous results, the use of virtual reality cue exposure therapies has shown greater improvement in terms of craving reduction for patients suffering from alcohol use disorder. Studies have also shown that the realism of the virtual environment can influence levels of craving and anxiety, both in heavy social drinkers. In addition, the use of virtual reality has proven to increase feeling of self-efficacy and decrease the tendency to engage in automatic drinking behaviors. However, the review also mentions the necessity of larger research to determine the efficiency of virtual reality as a therapeutic treatment for alcohol use disorder, whilst considering comorbidities and treatment background, especially for resistant patients.

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