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Virtual Reality for Addiction Treatment


As cutting-edge technology continues to advance, there are more and more ways for people to overcome addiction and sustain long-term sobriety. With this in mind, what if there was a way for an individual to fight through drug cravings and say no in real-time? Through virtual reality addiction treatment, people can fight off the temptation to use drugs and alcohol when a clinician is in their ear, walking them through the challenges in a virtual world. Addiction treatment centers across the country partner with this technology to help their patients adapt to the changes that come with sobriety, including our Banyan rehab locations.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to simulate an environment. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed in an interactive 3D world. The simulated environment can be anything from a walk in the woods to being in an underwater cage surrounded by great white sharks.

Virtual reality has made big segues in recent years, particularly with the use of the head-mounted display (HMD). This is a headset that can be worn and usually comes with one or two remote controls.

People who wear the headset are simulated in a particular environment, usually as part of a game where they have to shoot, hit, or run away. Major players in virtual reality include HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR (PSVR).

Additionally, there are three different types of virtual reality:

  • Non-immersive virtual reality: Non-immersive VR is the most common type of virtual reality and includes a computer-generated virtual environment where the user simultaneously remains aware and controlled by their physical environment.
  • Semi-immersive virtual reality: This type of VR offers an experience that’s partially based in a simulated environment. This type of VR is more commonly used for educational purposes and utilizes large projector systems, such as flight simulators for pilot trainees.
  • Fully-immersive virtual reality: While there are currently no completely immersive virtual reality technologies in existence, advances are so swift that they might be around the corner. This type of VR generates the most realistic simulation experience, from sight to sound to sometimes olfactory sensations.

While VR has mainly been used as a source of entertainment or education, many facilities are exploring its use for drug and alcohol treatment. VR addiction treatment is thought to help patients practice potentially triggering situations – such as entering a bar and turning down a drink – without the dangers of reality. While recovering addicts learn how to deal with these kinds of situations in rehab, they never know how they will handle their emotions when they are physically in that situation. Virtual reality breaks this barrier and opens up a whole new avenue for long-term recovery.

How Does Virtual Addiction Treatment Work?

Utilizing virtual drug treatment is extremely powerful, as it can create any real situation that has the ability to compromise one’s sobriety. Patients who engage in virtual substance use treatment will be walked through certain scenarios by a clinician, such as being in a bar or being exposed to drugs. When a patient enters an environment that would typically bring about triggers and impulses to use again, a clinician is present to help this patient work through the struggles in real-time.

Through this technique, clients can learn how to manage cravings for future situations in traditional treatment. However, they may not realize how they may react until they are in that exact moment. Virtual reality addiction treatment physically takes patients to a new environment that will allow them to feel the pressures of sobriety and how they can overcome these triggers without placing them in a situation they aren’t prepared for yet.

While an effective strategy, virtual substance abuse treatment should be coupled with other levels of addiction treatment that are customized for the patient to fully prepare them for the real world in recovery. This technology allows patients to build the tools they need to fight through the cravings and maintain their sobriety efforts.

Inpatient & Virtual Drug Rehabilitation

Virtual reality addiction treatment does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. This innovative technology proves to be another successful resource for struggling individuals.

If you’re searching for a facility that offers inpatient or telehealth options for addiction, Banyan Philadelphia can help. Our drug rehab offers various forms of inpatient and outpatient programs designed to treat all kinds of substance use disorders. We also offer telehealth addiction treatment for clients who meet the requirements of remote care.

For more information about our Philadelphia substance abuse programs, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information.


Related Reading:

Benefits of Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

Online Drug Dealers: How They’re Using Apps to Sell Drugs

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.