This Company Is Using Virtual Reality To Combat Pain & Addiction

By David Konow 07/25/16

AppliedVR hopes that its virtual reality pain-reducing applications will soon replace painkillers altogether. 

This Company Is Using Virtual Reality To Combat Pain & Addiction

Virtual reality has been around for many years, and right now with Oculus, the world may be on the verge of a revolution with the technology. Many feel that Oculus, a virtual reality technology company, will change and shape our futures in so many ways, including Matthew Stoudt, the CEO of AppliedVR, who wants to use it to help treat pain, and cut addiction off at the pass.

AppliedVR is a new startup company, and with the costs of virtual reality technology going down, Stoudt is hoping it can make a big difference in many people’s lives. As a report in MIT Technology Review tells us, virtual reality can reportedly reduce pain almost as well as painkillers. A study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in collaboration with AppliedVR, found that patients' pain was reduced by 24% on average after 20 minutes with the company's virtual reality software.

As Stoudt explains in an interview with The Fix, virtual reality has been used in mental health for a while now, especially in treating PTSD, and he’s excited to move it in the direction of combating addiction. “It’s going to take us a little bit longer to develop a program for addicts, but there’s no reason why we can’t be successful there.”

The company has created an application for reducing anxiety as well as three virtual-reality pain applications. VR headsets are already being used in hospitals and clinics for pain management after operations as well as for drawing blood and giving epidurals.  

In treating PTSD, virtual reality “can put you back into a situation and trigger it more rapidly, then you can work through it.” Stoudt also says that some patients are more amenable to listen to a “virtual therapist” for help, especially within military culture, where it can be hard to get some people to open up.

Stoudt wants to help treat pain before people turn to painkillers in the first place. “Part of what we’re doing right now is can we stop that cycle by prevention,” he says. “Let’s staunch the bleeding, then let’s work on the internal side of things.”

Stoudt says he wanted to get involved when he saw a TEDx talk on virtual reality, and realized he wanted to help people with the technology. “As you go through life, the first half you think of success, the second half you think of significance,” he says. “There’s this book of life, we’re all contributing our chapter, what’s the chapter you’re contributing? With the healing and therapeutic uses of virtual reality, I saw my opportunity to create significance. How can I give back and create real change?”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.