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Chinese drug rehabilitation centers use VR technology to treat addicts

By Sun Wenyu (People's Daily Online)    15:23, August 10, 2017

(Xie Kuangshi/thepaper.cn)

Visual reality (VR)-based treatment has been introduced in 4 compulsory isolation drug rehabilitation centers in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, thepaper.cn reported on August 9. Following tests on 1,008 valid people, a VR-based assessment and rehabilitation data base was established.

It was learnt that the innovative method will be gradually applied to the whole country. According to Cao Xuejun, head of detox administration under China’s Ministry of Justice, new methods of drug rehabilitation such as physical exercises, massage and VR treatment, have been applied in a bid to improve efficiency.

Seventh Technology, co-developer of the VR-based drug rehabilitation system, said rehabilitation centers in many provinces have expressed interest in introducing the system and installation is expected to be carried out in 2 or 3 months.

The system is specifically developed for methamphetamine addicts. Different from heroin to which drug users are addicted through physiological dependence, methamphetamine triggers psychological craving.

According to Wang Yongguang, an expert with the Zhejiang Provincial Rehabilitation Management Bureau who helped to develop the VR treatment, patients’ addiction was not likely to be evoked in previous practices because they were kept away from psychological craving. So it was hard to evaluate the result of the treatment.

The newly-introduced system offers simulated scenarios and triggers patients’ addiction. By recording the variation of drug users’ heart rates as they watch videos in VR goggles, it generates a series of objective and quantified indexes.

As a result, the contrast between their cravings before and after the treatment becomes an intuitive evaluation. If the heart rate variation is not observed, it means the patient is cured.

Wang said after testing more than 1,000 drug users, the system achieved 95.9 percent accuracy on the prediction of their cravings. In addition, the treatment has proven to work effectively on 73.6 percent of patients, while 37.6 percent were cured.

However, the system now lacks customized plans. Different video modules need to be filmed to improve efficiency on different groups of patients. Seventh Technology explained that the company is now working to make differences by gender for one of the drug rehabilitation centers it is planning to install the system. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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