Virtual Crack House Helps Addicts Get Clean

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Published by 12 years ago , last updated 11 months ago

Posted on November 6, 2007, Shawn Sines Virtual Crack House Helps Addicts Get Clean


Duke University professor Zach Rosenthal isn’t he first to apply video games to scientific or medical purposes. Yet his application a much vilified form of entertainment may be surprising.

Rosenthal is using Crack House virtual simulations to trigger real life cravings in addicts undergoing treatment. He then can address those cravings in therapy in hopes of strengthening his patients’ resolve to work through those cravings when encountered in real life situations.

“What we’re trying to do is take people into a virtual crack-related neighborhood or crack-related setting and have them experience cravings, just like they would in the real world,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said cravings are mental and a learned behavior. So, the theory behind the game is just as a person learns to crave, he or she can learn not to crave.

The therapy uses desensitization and training similar to Pavlov’s dog. Real live cravings are triggered by situations in the game. As they are dealt with and begin to subside the addict is exposed to a stimulus such as a tone that they will come to associate with that craving subsiding.

Theoretically, when they’re out in the real world and find themselves experiencing cravings, they can dial up a number on the phone the institute issues them and listen to the tone. Hearing the tone from their therapy sessions should cause their craving to subside.

The theory is sound and if it works could help people kick a tenacious addiction. One 52 year old long time addict claims he owes his recovery to virtual reality therapy.

“The program has done wonders for me,” he said. “Although I have fallen since I came out of the program, I am clean and have been clean for a good while.”

via ABC News

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