Can Virtual Reality Replace Opioids For Pain Relief?

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Can Virtual Reality Replace Opioids For Pain Relief?

Matthew Stoudt, CEO of AppliedVR, hopes that one day people will be prescribed virtual reality instead of opioids for pain relief.

AppliedVR is a startup company that is currently developing a library of virtual reality-related activities. And they are designed with the sole purpose of relieving pain and anxiety before, during, and after medical procedures.

Applied VR is also collaborating with doctors and hospitals to use the technology and study its effectiveness. Headsets with the Applied VR platform are already in use in some medical practices, to relieve the pain and stress associated with simple procedures such as blood draws. It’s also being used after major procedures, such as surgery.

Virtual reality has previously been studied for its pain relieving potential. But unfortunately, virtual reality technology is often notoriously expensive. AppliedVR, however, sells its headset and content for about $5,000 per year, which is a far more manageable amount than what has been seen in the past.

AppliedVR is also in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the latter has actually invested in the company. They are conducting studies using the software and analyzing its effectiveness.

According to researchers at Cedar-Sinai, 20 minutes of virtual reality software use reduced pain in patients by an average of 24%. That’s a significant reduction for acute pain.

Next, the hospital is going to conduct a controlled trial, in which some patients will get 24-7 access to virtual reality headsets, and others will not.

Commentary

The reason why virtual reality works for pain relief probably has something to do with relaxation and distraction. Unlike watching television, however, its can be a completely mesmerizing and immersive experience. I can see why it would serve as an effective distraction from pain.

However, this technology probably won’t be able to entirely replace other forms of pain relief. It is just one of many tools that doctors can use to manage pain. And if it reduces the need for addictive painkillers, it can never be a bad thing.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Related: The Role of Exercise in Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Recovery

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