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A virtual reality world to simulate cravings and desires may help in long struggle with addiction treatment, say researchers.
For heroin addicts, this is becoming a near reality. Creators have built virtual heroin environments, such as a house party packed with users who snort and inject the drug. This virtual world took nearly a year to complete to ensure realism, said the creators.
The study from the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, uses an eight-camera infrared system that projects life-sized 3D avatars and digital environments where individuals can interact in a virtual reality chamber known as the "heroin cave”.
The "virtual" environment goes into precise detail: Showing cash tossed on a table next to a cigarette lighter to open pizza boxes sprawled across the patio floor. All of which are meant to augment sensations and trigger a heroin craving.
"In traditional therapy we role-play with the patient but the context is all wrong," said Patrick Bordnick, an associate dean of research and one of the study leaders.
We need to put patients in realistic virtual reality environments and make them feel they are there with the drug, and the temptation, to get a clearer picture and improve interventions," Bordnick said.