The idea of virtual reality is not a recent concept. The term dates back from the 1930s when Antonin Artaud, a French poet and essayist, described the illusion of characters and object in the context of theatre. From then on, the use of virtual reality has been confined to training simulations and videogames.
However in the early 1990s, scientists from the University of Southern California begun exploring the use of virtual reality in therapy. Dr. Ralph Lamson from USC and the Kaiser Permanente Psychiatry Group has since claimed that he has cured his acrophobia with the use of a third party virtual reality simulation.
Developments on virtual reality for therapy have made serious strides since Dr. Lamson's claims. In fact just recently scientists from the University of Houston have presented a new use for virtual reality therapy or VRT.
A team from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work has claimed that VRT can help heroin addicts with weaning through their drug addiction. The researchers used an eight camera infrared system to expose their subjects to 3D avatars and environments that simulate a house party where the drug is snorted. The simulation aims to replicate stimuli that lead addicts to indulging on heroin. In subjecting them to the stimuli, scientist hope that they would be better prepared should the situation presents itself in real life.
Scientists involved in the study has since spoken out about their breakthrough. According to them, virtual reality environments present a more accurate depiction of addiction in the real world, as opposed to the traditional way of role playing.
"In traditional therapy we role-play with the patient but the context is all wrong. They know they're in a therapist's office and the drug isn't there. 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," quipped Patrick Bordnick - one of the authors of the study.