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Oct 12, 2007

Cue-exposure therapy to decrease alcohol craving in virtual environment

Cue-exposure therapy to decrease alcohol craving in virtual environment.

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2007 Oct;10(5):617-23

Authors: Lee JH, Kwon H, Choi J, Yang BH

During abstinence from alcohol, craving is elicited by the cues and contexts previously associated with alcohol, which contribute to relapse. To prevent the craving and relapse experienced by alcoholics, cue-exposure therapy (CET) has been used to extinguish the association between alcohol and alcohol-related cues and contexts. This study applied CET, using a virtual reality (VR) system, to eight members of an Alcoholics Anonymous group for eight sessions. Cues and contexts most likely to elicit an urge to drink were selected through a preliminary survey in order to compose VR-CET scenarios: a glass, a bottle, food, and a bar were judged to be the most tempting for people in alcohol dependence and abstinence. Using these cues and contexts, a Japanese-style pub and a western bar were created. Each session was administered for 30 minutes by a psychiatrist and included an introduction, immersion, VR navigation, interviews about feelings, and self-report questionnaires about cravings. The eight sessions consisted of initial and closing sessions and person-, object-, and situation-focused sessions. As a result, a reduction in cue-elicited craving after VR-CET was reported. A mean score of 15.75 (SD = 10.91) on the Alcohol Urge Questionnaire in the first session decreased to 11.50 (SD = 5.76) in the final session. This study suggests that using virtual reality can enhance the effectiveness of CET.

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