Virtual Reality Treatment Shows Great Promise in Treating Alcoholism

 Alcohol Addiction  Comments Off on Virtual Reality Treatment Shows Great Promise in Treating Alcoholism
Aug 052015

When it comes to treating alcoholics, one of the most interesting new methods is a form of virtual reality therapy. From a preliminary study that was performed in South Korea, the use of virtual reality therapy has actually demonstrated positive effects that might offer new hope to those plagued with alcohol addiction.

The study itself only involved ten patients, but the researchers were able to get promising results using a type of virtual reality that puts people in real-life situations and forces them to be active participants in this virtual world.

How It Works

The first part involves a detoxification program that lasts for one week which is then followed by the virtual reality therapy sessions. The virtual reality set-up uses a 3D television and is performed twice each week for five weeks in a row. In each session, a participant will undergo three types of virtual reality settings.

The first setting is simple relaxation where the patient can simply lay back and enjoy the world that is around them. The second setting is designed to actually trigger the cravings of alcohol by putting them in a world where they see others drinking. The final setting is one that creates an unpleasant feeling to be drinking. This setting shows people in a room getting ill from the consumption of alcohol. To add to this virtual reality, the patients actually drank a vomit-tasting substance as part of their aversion therapy.

The three settings stimulated areas of the brain that was sensitive to alcohol. It demonstrated repeated changes under each exposure which could be measured and then properly treated. Before each therapy session, the researchers would compare the brain metabolism of the patients to people in a control group who did not have any alcohol dependence. By making the comparisons using tomography scans, it was determined which areas had more metabolic activity in the brain’s behavioral and emotional locations.

Over a five week period of time during the therapy sessions, it was determined that in the ten person research study that the metabolic activity in the brain’s behavior and emotional centers had significantly decreased which meant that they had fewer alcohol cravings than before.

The Future of Virtual Reality Treatment

As a trial system, virtual reality treatment for alcohol addiction has shown some promise thanks to the initial results of the study. It is a non-invasive form of treatment that goes straight at the emotional and behavior centers of the brain which identify, monitor and eventually adjust reactions to create a lesser response to the craving for alcohol.

While more research is needed, the treatment represents an interesting new addition to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and resist temptation. The truth is that without long term research studies, the full effects of the treatment will not be known. This means that the virtual reality therapy sessions may only have a short-term effect as the passage of time and continues studies with the group will be needed as well as future study groups.


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 Posted by at 3:13 pm

Medications for Alcoholism Vastly Under Prescribed

 Alcohol Addiction  Comments Off on Medications for Alcoholism Vastly Under Prescribed
May 152014

Two prescription medications, naltrexone and acamprosate, which have been shown to be effective in treating alcoholism has been vastly under prescribed according to a recent study. One of the biggest hurdles has been to get the word out and educating doctors about their effectiveness.

According to the New York Times, “The medications, naltrexone and acamprosate, reduce cravings for alcohol by fine-tuning the brain’s chemical reward system. They have been approved for treating alcoholism for over a decade. But questions about their efficacy and a lack of awareness among doctors have resulted in the drugs’ being underused, the researchers said.

“Less than a third of all people with alcohol problems receive treatment of any kind, and less than 10 percent are prescribed medications. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurers provide coverage for substance abuse treatments and services, and addiction specialists expect to see increases this year in the number of people seeking help for alcoholism.

“George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said the new study should reassure doctors that naltrexone and acamprosate, while not silver bullets, can help many patients …

“… Historically, treatment for alcoholism and other addictions has been relegated to support groups, rehabilitation centers and similar programs, said Dr. Katharine A. Bradley, a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. But that is beginning to change as more doctors view addiction as a chronic illness that should be treated in a health care setting …”

The mindset needs to change and doctors need to be aware so that thousands of people may be helped by this treatment.


 Posted by at 9:50 am
Dec 172010

homeless alcoholicIn British Columbia, Canada there was a study conducted by University of Victoria that stated that the hiking of alcohol prices along with the controlled administration of alcohol for the homeless would actually reduce addiction and binge drinking.

The wisdom of the study sounds counterintuitive so let’s spend a minute discussing the reasoning behind this proclamation. The study says that in British Columbia (BC) that the price of alcohol is relatively cheap compared to other provinces. Raising the price of alcohol would discourage some drinkers while it would encourage low-income or no-income homeless people to get drunk or high off traditional alcoholic drinks.

For instance, the price of rubbing alcohol, hairspray, mouthwash or antifreeze may be a cheaper and more deadly solution which some homeless people are currently using and if the price of traditional alcohol were to go up, then most likely so would the use of these alternative methods of intoxication.

Giving free alcohol along with “harm-reduction programs” for homeless people are actually achieving positive results in pilot studies including one in Ontario. Admittedly this may not be the optimal solution, but if it lessens the death rate as has been reported, then it is worth expanding the pilot program and checking results on a broader scale.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm