Virtual Reality And Drug Rehabilitation: The Future Of Addiction Treatment

Recovering from a drug addiction can be one of the hardest things a person will ever have to do in their lifetime. After months or years of abusing a substance, the user’s mind and chemical reactions have adjusted to the product in ways that make successfully and permanently quitting the substance nearly impossible without help. For those seeking out addiction treatment to combat drug use, cravings and triggers can pose significant challenges to full rehabilitation and recovery.

At Niznik Behavioral Health, we understand how hard it can be to recover from drug addiction, and we are committed to utilizing the best, evidence-based techniques available to help our clients succeed in their sobriety goals. Virtual reality is one of those tools and has the life-saving and innovative potential to become a key component of a personalized drug rehabilitation program. If you are interested in how virtual reality can play a role in addiction recovery, contact Niznik Behavioral Health to speak with a member of our staff.

Woman using a virtual reality headset

Using Virtual Reality as an Addiction Treatment Tool

Virtual reality technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade, transitioning from a niche corner of the tech world into a global phenomenon. This virtual reality system allows participants to immerse themselves in a variety of settings and situations to practice recovery techniques, such as fighting off temptations, as well as to receive therapeutic support. Through this method, clients are able to perfect their responses to triggers in a safe and protected environment. With these toolsets, individuals seeking treatment are then able to move out into the world, confident in their ability to maintain sobriety and avoid relapsing.

Virtual reality methods can also have a large impact on those seeking treatment and play a significant role in countering their feelings of defeatism and self-doubt. By rejecting their addiction repeatedly in a virtual scenario, individuals foster the confidence to do so in the real world and maintain that belief in their own abilities across other treatment options.

How Virtual Reality Works

Virtual reality involves using a headset to immerse yourself in a wide set of virtual worlds. This technology drops you into the action in a way that seems like you’re actually in the office, bar, or park, and gives you the opportunity to directly interact with the world around you. The type of world you are immersed in depends on the type of treatment you receive, and while some of these worlds may have been filmed using special VR cameras, others may be entirely simulated. No matter the scene, these virtual worlds are entirely self-contained, which gives our clients an opportunity to approach their addiction in a safe, honest way without fear of immediately relapsing or succumbing to temptation.

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Benefits of Virtual Reality Treatment on Addiction

For those suffering from drug addiction, finding a path to sobriety can seem like an insurmountable task. Withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming and cause people to second-guess their decision to be sober. Even after recovering from withdrawal, the path ahead is fraught with temptations and moments that can lead someone back to addiction.

Virtual reality alone is not enough to stop this backpedaling, but it can serve as a vital tool in the fight to remain sober. Virtual reality is already a tested method in fighting off symptoms of PTSDquitting alcohol and cigarette use, and preventing the spread of obesity. Though every one of our clients has a unique treatment program designed for their individual needs, the benefits of virtual reality can apply no matter what stage of the process they are in.


To help during the process of detoxifying from drug addiction, virtual reality techniques can be used to distract the individual from the discomfort of withdrawal and detox. While immersed in this alternate reality, many find it easier to cope with their symptoms and stay committed to their sobriety.

Fighting Cravings

Even after detoxing, many people suffer from intense cravings as their minds seek out the chemicals it had grown to rely upon. These cravings can happen once in a while or be an all-encompassing experience, distracting the client making it difficult to remain internally committed to sobriety. Virtual reality can help people living with addictions approach and combat these cravings.

VR is an active experience, with the user diving completely into a different reality. Specific sounds, smells, situations, and visual stimuli play a vital role in their desire to use drugs, and by engaging regularly with these specific triggers, addicts can practice overcoming them through repeat exposure.  

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Learning to Say No

Saying no to an old addiction is a milestone that many struggle with when they commit to a drug addiction treatment program. While this is hard enough to do while under the care of trained addiction recovery professionals, it can be even harder once an addict leaves treatment. Though they may be ready to remove these substances from their lives, they will still have to engage in society and may have friends and family struggling through their own addictions.

With virtual reality, clients can practice these scenarios over and over again without having to worry about what happens if they cannot say no. Recovery is a daily commitment, but it can be easier to do if you know you have succeeded in the past. By successfully saying no to addiction in a virtual setting, addicts can feel more confident saying no once they leave treatment.

Personalized Therapy

As much as VR can help addicts fight off outside triggers, it can also help therapists identify the internal contributions fostering an addiction. Self-doubt, childhood trauma, a family history of addiction, and countless other factors could be building a roadblock to recovery. By exploring different scenarios in VR and examining their reactions to these situations, addiction treatment therapists can better identify and treat the root causes of addiction.


The goal of VR does not have to be as active or involved as role-playing or exploring past traumas. While VR can be a game-changing method in these treatments, it can also be used to help individuals relax and cope with their commitment to be sober. For many, a sober life can seem boring compared to the stress and adrenaline that came with perpetuating their addiction. VR offers a safe alternative to drug use which can develop new, healthy habits to carry with addicts outside of treatment.

Soothing scenes, when combined with relaxing music, can help reduce agitation, stress, paranoia, and anger and provide a quiet place for self-reflection. This technology can also provide an escape if cravings become overwhelming.

Why Virtual Reality Addiction Treatment Works

No matter what type of drug someone has developed an addiction for, they will face pressures and temptations to relapse after leaving our programs. Whether they are in an extensive inpatient treatment programs or a part of an adolescent treatment program, these substances will continue to exist. VR for addiction treatment helps to build confidence and reinforce one’s ability to resist addiction. By experiencing these scenarios and fears in a safe environment, they can build up the skill set they need to confidently manage these experiences later on in their lives and avoid falling back into the cycle of addiction.

A Modern Drug Addiction Treatment Center

Every addict deserves to have the best treatment options available to them as they fight against addiction. At Niznik Behavioral Health, we are committed to helping our clients during every stage of the recovery process and giving them the tools to stay sober for the rest of their lives.

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