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Assessing momentary levels of craving and anxiety before and after virtual reality cue-exposure therapy in individuals with alcohol use disorder

Franke, L. (2021) Assessing momentary levels of craving and anxiety before and after virtual reality cue-exposure therapy in individuals with alcohol use disorder.

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Abstract:Background: Alcohol craving and craving-related anxiety are considered essential mechanisms that interfere with successful abstinence in individuals suffering from alcohol-use disorder (AUD). Cue-exposure therapy (CET) aims at reducing alcohol craving and craving-related anxiety. Virtual reality (VR) might increase the effectiveness of traditional CET. The current study investigated the extent to which ALCO-VR, a VR software, can be used to induce and assess craving/anxiety during exposure to alcohol-related VR-environments. Second, it was examined to what extent ALCO-VR can be used as a virtual-reality CET (VR-CET) tool to reduce momentary levels of craving/anxiety from pre- to post-treatment. Methods: A within-subject, repeated-measures design was applied. 19 participants from the Addictive Behaviour Unit of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona took part. The study lasted five weeks for each participant and consisted of an initial assessment, six VR-CET sessions, and a final assessment. Momentary levels of craving and anxiety were assessed with visual analog scales (VASs). For the first aim, the levels of craving/anxiety in a neutral, non-alcohol-related environment were compared to the levels of craving/anxiety in four alcohol-related environments (bar, restaurant, at-home, pub). For the second aim, the levels of craving/anxiety at the initial and final assessment were compared. Results: Apart from anxiety in the at-home environment, the levels of craving/anxiety were significantly higher in the alcohol-related environments compared to the neutral environment. The momentary levels of craving/anxiety significantly decreased from pre- to post-VR-CET in all alcohol-related environments. Discussion: The findings support the effectiveness of the ALCO-VR software as an assessment and treatment tool for alcohol craving and craving-related anxiety. Larger clinical trials are required to investigate individual differences regarding VR-CET outcomes and to examine its long-term effects and ecological validity. Follow-ups to the current study are already ongoing to examine the long-term effects of VR-CET and its effectiveness in reducing relapse.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/88148
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