Researchers are always on the lookout for new kinds of therapy that may be effective in helping patients to stop drinking and stay sober for the long-term – and it looks like technology may be one of the latest options for alcoholics and others struggling with an alcohol use disorder.
A form of virtual reality was examined in a small study and found to be helpful for people who were in alcohol treatment. Reuters reports that participants used the technology to simulate real-life situations in which they may encounter alcohol or the urge to drink; the virtual simulations were interactive and focused on helping the participant to overcome alcohol cravings.
Sessions took place post-detox, twice a week for five weeks, and utilized a 3D screen. In each virtual reality session, patients faced three scenarios:
- A relaxing scenario
- An alcohol cravings triggering scenario (e.g., being around other people who were drinking)
- A scenario that made drinking appear unpleasant (e.g., watching people get sick after drinking alcohol)
Additionally, in the last scenario, participants drank a liquid that was designed to taste like vomit.
Brain scans of participants demonstrated changes in the parts of the brain associated with alcohol use and sensitivity after repeated exposure to all three scenes and found that cravings for alcohol were lower, especially after the third scene, according to the study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Dr. Doug Hyun Han of Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, was lead researcher on the study. He said that because the study only included 10 participants for a short period of time, more research is needed in order to accurately assess long-term results.
Dr. Bernard Le Foll at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, was not connected to the study. He said: “Although this pilot study seems to indicate that virtual reality may produce some changes in brain metabolism, this is not yet studied as a treatment approach. Much more research work needs to be done to be able to determine if ‘virtual reality’ treatment will have a place in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.”
Current Alcohol Treatment Options
Though virtual reality may not be anywhere near ready to be included as a regular option for treatment in alcohol rehabs around the world, there are a number of treatment services that have been proven to be exceptionally helpful in aiding patients to stop drinking safely and remain drug- and alcohol-free. Some of these treatment services include:
- Medical detox: Medication may be helpful in addition to medical care, depending upon the severity and nature of withdrawal symptoms experienced by the patient during the first days and weeks after the cessation of drinking.
- Behavioral and cognitive therapy: Identifying the behaviors and thought processes that may be making life harder than it has to be – and alcohol cravings more overwhelming – can help patients to learn how to adjust those perspectives to ones that are healthier and more positive.
- Group therapy: Getting together regularly with other people who are similarly struggling with the intent to learn new coping mechanisms for dealing with cravings and to give and get support from one another is therapeutic for patients. The building of a community is beneficial early in recovery and throughout their lifetimes.
- Alternative therapies: Dance therapy, sports therapy, art therapy – there are thousands of different types of therapies that can help patients to forget words, explore their emotions, and improve self-confidence and interpersonal communication skills through different activities.
- Holistic treatment: Acupuncture, yoga, acupressure, aromatherapy, and meditation – there are also a number of holistic treatment options that can help to lower stress, treat underlying medical conditions, and make the detox process more efficient as patients grow in recovery.
- Family therapy: Working on rebuilding the relationships damaged during active alcohol dependence can help the patient during treatment and create a stronger environment for recovery after they return home as well.
- Aftercare: Once the patient leaves alcohol rehab, their continued success in relapse prevention is dependent upon their ongoing engagement with recovery. This means continuing to attend personal therapy, group therapy, and any alternative or holistic treatments that were meaningful and effective during their time in rehab.
Unique and Personalized Care
Every patient will benefit from a thorough evaluation and assessment process at the start of treatment. This will help to identify the therapies and treatment services that will be the most effective in not only helping them to thrive at the rehabilitation program but to continue to grow personally after treatment. Long-term abstinence is only possible when a patient in recovery creates a strong community of others who are similarly working to remain free of substance use and continues to get treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders and support for any other issues that may decrease their ability to avoid relapse.
What do you need to overcome alcohol abuse? Are you interested in traditional therapy options like 12-step meetings and other interventions? Do alternative therapies and holistic treatments appeal to you? Are you interested in learning more about medication options available to assist with making alcohol detox more comfortable and efficient?
Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake at the phone number listed above and find out more about the treatment services we offer and how we can best assist you in creating a life of stability in recovery.