USA opioid epidemic could be solved with virtual reality developed by Samsung | Science | News

Around 100 clinics and hospitals are working with Samsung to provide patients with therapy which eliminates the need for addictive painkillers.

Trials show that using virtual reality headsets takes people’s minds of wounds and injuries by reducing pain as much as 53 per cent as well as anxiety by 60 per cent – which is the equivalent of medication.

Chief Medical Officer and Head of Healthcare and Fitness at Samsung Electronics America, Dr David Rhew, said: “People are dying every single day because of the opiate epidemic.

“It is approaching the level of what Aids was in the 80s so when people say it is an epidemic it really is.

“We found through this, non-invasive, non-addictive way to address this.

“It’s an important tool in inventory. We know it works but we don’t actually know how it works.”

Figures show opioid addiction in the US kills more people than breast cancer.

This is around 42,000 deaths a year and is thought to cost the economy $2.6 billion a year (£1.89 billion).

Dr Rhew warned that by the time people are dangerously addicted to opioids it is too late to help them with virtual reality.

He is hoping to prevent people needing to take them in the first place by offering the alternative therapy.

Dr Rhew added: “If you think about the opioid epidemic there are three phases.

“Firstly if we could not order medicines or the patient was not able to need it, that is the first goal, just trying to make sure they don’t get on it.

“Just trying to make sure they don’t get on it.

“The second stage is when they are on it but they can’t get off it because the pain is persistent and they are taking it on a regular basis and there starts to be a level of addiction.

“The third is where you truly are addicted and you need the constant high. And that’s an area you need amore comprehensive strategy.

“We’ve been looking around the first two areas If you have a physician doing surgery, and the patient needs a painkiller afterwards what if you could have another option, a non-narcotic alternative?

“You’re always able to take the pill but let’s try the non-narcotic first. Nip it before it becomes a problem.”

Samsung is also using virtual reality to help paraplegics walk again.

The patient views their body moving virtually while using an exoskeleton on their limbs.

It tricks the brain into making new connections along the spinal cord.

Also, the team is hoping to create a wearable device such as a wristband which could monitor pain through changes in heartbeat.

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