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Medicine

Researchers Create Virtual Reality 'Parties' To Treat Drug Addiction 47

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the virtual-drugs-just-not-as-much-fun dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes To help people overcome drug addiction, researchers at the University of Houston's Graduate School of Social Work are building hyper-realistic virtual worlds to recreate situations that trigger cravings for nicotine, alcohol, weed, and now, hard drugs like heroin. Traditional relapse therapy usually involves roleplaying: Therapists often pretend to be a friend or some other familiar person and offer the patient their drug of choice in order to teach them avoidance strategies. By strapping patients into a virtual reality headset and running them through a familiar scenario where they commonly use the drug, like a party, the treatment can be much more realistic and effective, researchers say (video).
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Researchers Create Virtual Reality 'Parties' To Treat Drug Addiction

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's a viscous cycle

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday August 01, 2014 @03:30AM (#47579755) Homepage

    Many respectable physicists said that they weren't going to stand for this, partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn't get invited to those sorts of parties.

    -Douglas Adams

  • where can you download one of these uh parties.?

  • researchers at the University of Houston's Graduate School of Social Work are building hyper-realistic virtual worlds

    I'm not sure about "hyper-realistic". :) Sprite characters which say a pre-recorded line when you trigger them? Whoopy. Actually, looking at the video [youtube.com], it resembles a lot the game Under a Killing Moon [youtube.com] from 1994.

    Despite the slightly crusty appearance, I do not want to completely stomp the idea though.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday August 01, 2014 @03:53AM (#47579829) Homepage Journal
    So essentially I can use my Occulus Rift as virtual beer goggles then?
  • by Nyder (754090) on Friday August 01, 2014 @04:11AM (#47579875) Journal

    that this is really stupid. Maybe it will help the non real addicts that people think need help, but those of us who are true addicts it's about our will power, nothing less. Back when I was strung out on heroin, it didn't matter if I went to rehab, got clean, i would be strung out again within 1 week once I got left to my own ends.

    What got me to quit was getting help for some of my mental issues, and me getting completely sick of the junky scene. I hated being dope sick. I hated the crap I did to stay well. I learned to remember all the bad shit associated with being a heroin addict, and I left that as a reminder in my mind on what the path leads to.

    On top of that, I got as far away from other users as possible. I don't want to associate with them, hang with them, even talk to them. Fuck that. If you think you can still be friends with addicts/users, you are mistaken. If they can't get clean, screw them, they will only pull you down.

    There is plenty to do without hanging around people who use/abuse drugs. If you really want to stay clean, you accept that as reality and change your life, otherwise you are just setting yourself up to fail on purpose.

    • by gunz_n_space80 (3711137) on Friday August 01, 2014 @04:28AM (#47579909)
      Well said! I know it's not the same, but I had serious problems with alcoholism years ago and got the same impression that you did from reading this article. After-school special peer pressure users or drinkers are not suffering from a real addiction. My addiction was a very personal thing for me that no one else who knew me would understand or approve of which is why I had to keep it secret. I felt OK and was able to cope only when I was under the influence, or knew that I was not far removed from being able to achieve that state. I lacked the mental toughness and tools to fix the problems that the sober me could not reconcile and turned to liquor to define me because I just could not be bothered with it. After coming face to face with the fact that I had irrevocably altered my life in a profoundly negative way, I made the choice to live life sober and take control.
    • by imidan (559239)

      On top of that, I got as far away from other users as possible. I don't want to associate with them, hang with them, even talk to them.

      Isn't that kind of the point of this, though, to simulate a party with those people, and immerse you in it while you're sober, and reinforce that preference to stay away from users of your drug? I mean, I don't think it's a cure-all, and it sounds like the project is too young for clinical trials or to produce statistics about relapse rates or anything, but isn't it worth

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      So you are saying that hanging out with other users had potentially bad consequences.

      That seems almost exactly what they are trying to reproduce in this treatment. They are trying to bridge the gap between rehab and what you did during that one week after.

      I see it as a more practical alternative to sending a [whoever helps you during rehab] to accompany you everywhere for some weeks.

      If Muhammad has no time to go to the mountain, the mountain shall come to Muhammad, virtually.

      • I think that what Nyder means is pretty much that once you fix the underlying problems in your head and with your life, there is no longer a need to hang out with people that have yet to even acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. What could you possibly gain by that other than depressing the heck out of yourself? And what he was talking about is not what they are reproducing with the treatment because the focus of the treatment is the substance and some common situations where the substanc
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday August 01, 2014 @06:06AM (#47580109)

      If you think you can still be friends with addicts/users, you are mistaken. If they can't get clean, screw them, they will only pull you down.

      I suppose it can work with hard drugs or alcohol - I am not, and never was, a user or either, so I'm no specialist though.

      However, I AM a nicotine addict. I say nicotine and not tobacco, because I have switched to vaping as a risk mitigation strategy (and quit smoking for good as a result).

      One thing I can tell you as a former smoker is, when you're hooked on tobacco, there's no escaping it. You can't avoid being with other smokers, because the smell of cigarette is everywhere. When I quit smoking, it'd only take some random guy who had just smoked outside, walking past me, reeking of cold cigarette smoke, to send me craving like there was no tomorrow.

      Random guys who smell of tobacco are everywhere. You just can't escape the smell. You're constantly bombarded with reminders that, yes, you'd really REALLY want to smoke one just right now.

      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday August 01, 2014 @06:31AM (#47580143)

        If you think being a nicotine addict makes it hard to avoid contact with the addiction, just imagine being addicted to sex.

        Your choices go from cabin in the woods to monk temple.

      • I quit smoking cold turkey a few years ago before vaping really took off. There are a lot of factors that go into whether someone can finally quit or not, but I will say that the pleasant, tempting odor of cigarettes went away eventually. Sometimes a light tobacco scent on the air will smell good in an abstract sense but when I am around other smokers it's a pretty disgusting odor. The hardest part for me about quitting was being left out socially every time there was a smoke break. It was actually when I
      • One thing I can tell you as a former smoker is, when you're hooked on cigarettes, there's no escaping it. You can't avoid being with other smokers, because the smell of cigarette is everywhere. When I quit smoking, it'd only take some random guy who had just smoked outside, walking past me, reeking of cold cigarette smoke, to send me craving like there was no tomorrow.

        Random guys who smell of tobacco are everywhere. You just can't escape the smell. You're constantly bombarded with reminders that, yes, you'd really REALLY want to smoke one just right now.

        FTFY.

        I switched from cigarettes to a pipe about 2.5 years ago, and now I can't stand the chemical reek of coffin nails. "random guy who smells like cigarettes" grosses me out just as much as he does a non-smoker, maybe even more so. Conversely, I get complements about the smell of pipe smoke all the time, and people actually tell me, "it's cool, you can smoke in here, I like the way that smells." I still won't smoke indoors out of principle, though.

      • by nblender (741424)

        I quit smoking lots of times... I only quit smoking for good, once... As such, I only have one data point. I've been clean for 9 years.

        My overriding reason to quit was that I didn't want my son to know me as a smoker.

        What helped me along the way, encountering the situations you describe, were the negative aspects of what it was like as a smoker. The disgusting cough in the morning, the stench on my clothes, the blandness of my food... If I walked past a smoker, I just brought forth the memory of those neg

    • Yeah, a real addict will just fake his/her way through the VR to get back outside the program and to the drugs again. Addicted people tend to spend all their energy manipulating their environment to be able to do drugs freely anyway. Someone has to find their own motivation and reasons for quitting.

  • I think the entire approach is wrong-headed. Why would it be acceptable for someone who's attempting to recover from addiction hang out with people who are still using - people who would encourage them to use again, in spite of the typically massive damage to their so-called "friend's" life that landed them in rehab in the first place?

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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