VR Promises a Surprising Tech Alternative to Painkillers in Deadly Opioid Crisis

As the United States teeters on the brink of a national state of emergency, more than 100 Americans now die every day due to opioid overdose. Ted Jones, a clinical psychologist with Pain Consultants of East Tennessee and an expert on the front lines of pain and addiction issues, has been in the heart of the crisis in Tennessee where the problem is particularly grave.

“Here in southern Appalachia we are having a big, big problem. Folks debate whether the term ‘epidemic’ is appropriate or not, but no one will deny that there is a major issue as overdoses are on the rise,” he says.

Jones says multiple contributors may be to blame for the problem, including pharmaceutical companies, greedy providers, and an overall ignorance about the dangers of prescribing opioid treatments.

Yet amid this backdrop of crisis, a new suite of digital tools, including virtual reality, are emerging as possible alternatives to treating pain.

Using virtual reality to treat pain dates back at least as far as the mid-90s, when a cognitive psychologist at the University of Washington, Hunter Hoffman, developed SnowWorld, a video game that tunnels players through ice-covered canyons while aiming snowballs at moving penguins and snowmen. The game demonstrated success in significantly reducing pain for burn victims suffering from extreme levels of acute pain.

According to Josh Sackman, president and co-founder of AppliedVR, a company working to commercialize VR software similar to SnowWorld, VR is effective at reducing acute pain because it can divert a patient’s attention away from the pain.

By Aaron Frank | SingularityHub

Image Credit: Aaron Frank/SingularityHub

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About Peter Coffaro 1134 Articles

A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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