China has achieved initial success in using virtual reality (VR) technology to treat drug addiction.
The Rehabilitation Management Bureau of East China's Zhejiang Province announced that it has tested VR treatment on drug addicts 1,008 times. The bureau said the results have been encouraging, as the VR treatment has been "largely effective" in treating 98.1 percent of the medium-level methamphetamine addicts, and 67.3 percent of severe methamphetamine addicts also showed some improvement, news portal thepaper.cn reported Wednesday.
Wang Yongguang, the head of the project, said that the VR system can assess the severity of a methamphetamine user's addiction while showing them video clips of drug abuse, thepaper.cn reported.
Wang said that their analysis of the 1,008 samples showed that the treatment was effective to some degree on 73.7 percent of methamphetamine addicts, and the cure rate is 37.6 percent, which is quite high.
The addicts in the Zhejiang test reportedly received six VR therapy sessions on average. During the treatment, the addicts are asked to put on VR glasses which play videos and also to wear a device that records their heartbeats.
The first part of the clip displays a documentary on drug use, and the second part presents a film showing the negative consequences of taking drugs, which acts as aversion therapy. The final segment of the video shows a warm domestic scene to encourage addicts to return to family life after overcoming their drug addiction.
"We paid a lot of attention to detail while making the VR video ... if the addicts can resist the drug addiction through the VR video, they could also resist it in reality," Wang said.
This kind of VR therapy for drug addiction assessment and treatment will be introduced to other provinces in the coming months, and a special VR therapy methodology tailored for female addicts will also be developed.
Cao Xuejun, head of the detox administration under the Ministry of Justice, said on June 21 that VR will be used to help rehabilitate drug addicts.