Potential Applications of Virtual Reality (VR) in Alcohol and Drug Education.

Author:Sharma, Manoj

The field of alcohol and drug education has always benefited from multidisciplinary inputs from the fields of psychology, sociology, medicine, public health, social work, counseling, biostatistics, epidemiology, education and many other such influences. Recent advances in the field of computer sciences are also shaping up the evolving applications in alcohol and drug education literature. One such application is the use of virtual reality (VR). VR entails providing the participant a total immersive involvement using computers and sensors that shuts off the physical world as the participant engages in the experience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2018) defines reality as "the quality or state of being real" and virtual as "being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized as or admitted." A vital part of VR experience is that of a sense of "presence' akin to the sensation of "being there" in the scene (Lorenz et al., 2018). So, virtual reality becomes a very fascinating interpretation of reality using technology that has a myriad of applications in health and medical sciences.

The applications of VR in alcohol and drug education are in their infancy. Some such applications exist in nascent stages and some could be developed further. Applications in alcohol and drug education of VR could include simply explaining the influences of alcohol on the body and mind to high school, undergraduate and graduate students for preventive and educational purposes. VR can be used to demonstrate the effects of increasing amounts of alcohol consumption on the body and mind and even develop a revulsion response. Such applications can also be used in educating patients and the general public about the negative effects of alcohol dependence. VR could be applied as an aid in one-on-one counseling. VR could also be used in assessment and treatment of alcohol-related disorders and other similar uses. Some studies with VR have even examined the role of ethanol consumption on user performance in VR environments (Lorenz et al., 2018). The purpose of this editorial is to identify some current applications of VR in the alcohol and drug field and explore future research directions.

Kim and Lee (2015) used VR to gauge the responses among undergraduate heavy social drinkers (n=18) and light social drinkers (n=18). They exposed participants to scenarios of alcohol and non-alcohol related situations and the participants had to either pull or push the joysticks...

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