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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Oct;96(4):454-60. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.07.005. Epub 2010 Jul 17.

Methamphetamine craving induced in an online virtual reality environment.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


The main aim of this study was to assess self-reported craving and physiological reactivity in a methamphetamine virtual reality (METH-VR) cue model created using Second Life, a freely available online gaming platform. Seventeen, non-treatment seeking, individuals that abuse methamphetamine (METH) completed this 1-day, outpatient, within-subjects study. Participants completed four test sessions: 1) METH-VR, 2) neutral-VR, 3) METH-video, and 4) neutral-video in a counterbalanced (Latin square) fashion. The participants provided subjective ratings of urges to use METH, mood, and physical state throughout each cue presentation. Measures of physiological reactivity (heart rate variability) were also collected during each cue presentation and at rest. The METH-VR condition elicited the greatest change in subjective reports of "crave METH", "desire METH", and "want METH" at all time points. The "high craving" participants displayed more high frequency cardiovascular activity while the "low craving" participants displayed more low frequency cardiovascular activity during the cue conditions, with the greatest difference seen during the METH-VR and METH-video cues. These findings reveal a physiological divergence between high and low craving METH abusers using heart rate variability, and demonstrate the usefulness of VR cues for eliciting subjective craving in METH abusers, as well as the effectiveness of a novel VR drug cue model created within an online virtual world.

(c) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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