How Technology is Pulling Us Out of the Opioid Crisis

Opiate overdoses now claim more lives than auto-accidents. In fact, last year in the U.S., almost twice as many people died from opiate overdoses than car wrecks.

It’s clear that we are in the midst of a problem of epidemic proportions. This leaves most people wondering: How will the country face and overcome the opiate issue?

While therapy and other forms of support certainly serve as an important piece to this difficult and devastating puzzle, the future of what will help people kick drug addictions stems from a somewhat unlikely place: the rapidly growing world of technology.

Virtual Reality Potential

The most promising tech for aiding in recovery efforts for those addicted to opiates comes in the form of Virtual Reality (VR).

While VR tech has been around since the early 90s, it’s only gained real traction in the past few years. VR was once an archaic form of technology but is now thriving. VR has much potential for assisting in the difficulties of opiate addiction. This is due to the immersive qualities of modern day VR. Full body haptic suits in combination with state of art graphics provide an alternate world that is incredibly believable.

VR can be used to treat drug addiction, especially addiction to heavy drugs such as heroin and meth, by putting those addicted into a series of virtual scenarios and settings.

Several programs developed by the University of Huston create scenarios that help paint a much more in-depth understanding of how individual drug addicts’ brains work in accordance to their drug of choice.

One scenario involves an addicted person interacting with “virtual parties” or even a VR “heroin cave.” Those addicted are introduced to settings where they would typically ingest a drug like heroin usually by injecting or snorting in groups.

Basically, this gives therapists a view of what addiction looks like to individuals in the rawest settings. This can help them understand what causes individuals to crave these substances, the specific triggers for relapse, and unearth what has caused them to start using the substances in the first place.

This type of VR therapy is also becoming popular for people struggling with heavy addiction to drugs opiates and methamphetamines in other places around the globe, such as China.

A post by the NCADD elaborates:

“In traditional therapy we role-play with the patient but the context is all wrong,” said one of the study leaders, Patrick Bordnick. “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.”

Furthermore, those coming off opiates must all too frequently face the painful and challenging withdrawal symptoms. And a lot of times they must do this alone. Relapses and overdoses frequently occur at this stage of an addict getting clean, especially when they don’t have someone there to help.

Imagine how less lonely and scary this process would be if it were possible to create VR settings that promote positivity and sense of community. The near future will likely also see a rise in withdrawal assistance through VR.

A Solution for At-Risk Students

The opiate epidemic increasingly affects the youth of today. It’s estimated that almost 30,000 adolescents use heroin every year. This is prevalent among college students, since drug use on campuses is common. Addiction can take a student who is on a great path and totally derail their lives. Drug addiction has huge impact on grades, dropout rates and overall quality of life. It has become all too common for successful students to spiral into lifestyles where a drug, not an education, becomes the focus.

However, if there’s one thing we know about college-aged students, it’s that they embrace technology.

Thankfully, more and more smartphone apps are being developed to assist in the process of getting and staying sober. The apps Quit That, recoveryBox, and Today’s Step are all highly promising and offer advice, motivation and a sobriety day counter for those getting off drugs.

Additionally, there are many social media sites specific to the community needs of those in recovery from addiction. There are a surprising number of niche specific social media platforms out there. Specifically, Sober Grid, In the Rooms and The Daily Pledge seem highly useful for creating a sense of community within those recovering from addiction.

The possibilities for tech-centric addiction recovery is almost limitless. This creates hope for an otherwise bleak state of addiction the world is facing. As technology excels, those struggling with opiate addiction will become armed with more tools than ever to live a happier, healthier, drug-free life.

Related:
Victims of the Opioid Crisis Need Our Support – Not Stigma
Tapering Off Prescription Opioids: 7 Tips for Success
Ohio Sues 5 Major Drug Companies Over the Opioid Crisis

66 comments

Marie W
Marie W28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

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Nancy G
Nancy G5 months ago

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Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L5 months ago

I had no idea how awful this was.

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

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Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Glennis W
Glennis W5 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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