What if Virtual Reality (VR) could change the habits of addicted opioid users or people who are in chronic pain?
Hundreds of Americans are dying due to the serious opioid crisis that’s been increasing over the past few years. According to clinical psychologist, Ted Jones, he states that, “Multiple Contributors may be to blame for the problem, including pharmaceutical companies, greedy providers, and an overall ignorance about the dangers of prescribing opioid treatments.”
Back in the 90’s, Hunter Hoffman, a cognitive psychologist from the University of Washington, developed a video game (SnowWorld) that helped reduce the pain of burn victims with various levels of pain.
These days, scientists and technologists are trying to think up of new ways to use and commercialize VR to do the same with patients suffering from the opioid epidemic, by diverting their attention away from their pain.
And John Sackman, president and co-founder of AppliedVR, is planning to do just that.
“Pain requires a tremendous amount of attention, and as humans we are terrible multitaskers. If you can take someone and distract their focus away from their pain and have them focus on something else, you can reduce the amount of psychical pain a patient experiences.”
According to a clinical study, they say that using virtual reality is actually ‘twice as effective’ as using opiates like morphine’. Acute pain can be easily treated as patients can easily be distracted.
Patients with chronic pain on the other hand may have to undergo a longer process with specific techniques. AppliedVR thinks that VR-based methods that deal with cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based techniques can be useful in helping to fight off the pain.
The benefits of using virtual reality is that it’s a better distraction from that compared to a television or a radio. People can be distracted quite easily from their surroundings while using a TV or listening to music. The attention span doesn’t last very long until realizing that their pain is back. Sessions of a long VR experience to teach them how to distract themselves from the pain may be the solution.
The process of treating the patient may take a while, but Sackman believes that VR really is the right step in replacing opioids and helping people find healthier ways to relieving their pain.
“VR could be a major player in chronic pain treatment, and it has more potential than any new pain treatment on the horizon.”
Watch the story of Bob Jester, who fell off a rooftop and now suffers from acute pain, uses virtual reality to help rid himself from using opioids all together.
Source(s) from Singularityhub