Virtual reality used in drug rehabilitation

Treatment center uses to high technology to evaluate symptoms and improve results.

At the Qingdong Rehabilitation Center in Qingpu District, administrators have installed biometric monitoring equipment and VR helmets with eye-tracking software.

When a patient wears the helmet, he or she sees various scenes, such as a room with drugs, or former addicts sharing their experiences of beating addiction. All the while, sensors monitor their pulse, heartbeat, breathing and other biometric readings.

Based on collected data, the equipment generates a report on the severity of the patient's addiction, or improvements they have made in beating their addiction. The machines can also provide corresponding rehabilitation plans.

 “Compared to traditional assessment and treatment approaches with questionnaires and two-dimensional pictures, the new system with brain science and neuroscience technology helps us understand addicts’ cognitive damage and motor handicaps caused by drugs more accurately,” said Zheng Wei, deputy director of the city’s narcotic control office.

Zheng explained that while other cities are also using VR technology for drug rehabilitation, the platform used in Shanghai is more effective as it contains eye-tracking instruments.

“In other places, drug addicts sometimes close their eyes when using the system, but we can see through such tricks with our eye-tracking instrument, which ensures that the data is authentic,” he said.

As drugs can damage abusers’ cognitive abilities, the system includes some VR games to help addicts regain diminished abilities, such as concentration and self-control.

It also shows scenarios like family gatherings to stimulate addicts’ longing for family connections and calm their nerves.

Zheng said the platform has proven effective and is now being promoted in another four rehabilitation centers in Shanghai.

By the end of last year, there were more than 42,000 drug addicts in Shanghai, including over 7,000 newly diagnosed last year, the narcotic control office announced yesterday.

68.2 percent of Shanghai's drug abusers are locals. Male abusers outnumber women nearly four to one.

More than 70 percent of Shanghai's addicts abuse synthetic drugs.

Local police confronted more than 3,000 drug-related crimes last year and seized 484.5 kilograms of drugs, of which 63.2 percent were methamphetamine.

Wang Shiping, director of the city’s narcotic control office, said Shanghai faces challenge as the city has large chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as developed logistics service, which might attract drug dealers.

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