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VR and the USAs Opioid Addiction Problem

by Beth Divine 12 Nov 2018

The USA has a problem. If the world went to rehab, America would be standing up and saying ‘Hi, I’m America and I am an opioid addict.’ The USA consumes 80% of the world’s opioid supply – that is a phenomenal amount of pain killer, and possibly goes some way to explaining why so many people seem to be able to get their hands on ridiculous levels of addictive medicines without the controls and strictures used in other countries. VR can help to start wean the country off pain killers and back into a drug free life using distraction techniques.

It is already known that the perception of pain is lessened when the patient is distracted. VR is nothing if not an extreme distraction, making us ‘forget’ that we are seated in our living rooms, instead transporting us to… well, wherever we wat to be, the Wild West, chilliest Antarctica or the depths of the Marianas Trench, you name it, we can go there.

Pain is seldom a good thing, and painkillers that stop people suffering are often good things, there are solid reasons to use medicines for the least amount of time possible. Painkillers can stop working if taken long term – the body adjusts to the narcotic, needing more and more to achieve the same or (more usually) less relief. Other medications can interfere with painkillers, rendering them ineffective or dangerous, or they (the painkillers) can affect the efficacy of the medications…

This is why everyone who is taking more than one medication in the long term, should visit their doctor to discuss all their meds and determine if they go well together, if any can be stopped or changed (especially if they are addictive) and come up with some pain management strategies that can ease pain: sometimes just breathing differently can help as much or more than a pill!

VR comes into play by helping during treatments or after, during the recovery phase, by allowing the pain to be ignored or even willed away. Simply having fun can make it easier to override pain without resorting to narcotic relief. ‘Seeing’ oneself lying on a warm beach with a cold drink to hand, can allow the brain to override any messages of pain or discomfort that it is receiving. It can also help people to articulate what they are feeling or sensing if they have communication difficulties, but letting them ‘see’ the problem as a graphic representation, something that they can point to or manipulate to ease their own distress.

Pain is useful as it lets us know that the body is struggling. But once the message is received, we no longer need the pain in our bodies. So let’s get rid of it as quickly as we can!