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Addict Behav. 2018 Jun;81:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.01.036. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

Applications of virtual reality in individuals with alcohol misuse: A systematic review.

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University of Barcelona, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Spain. Electronic address:
University of Barcelona, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Spain.



Alcohol use and misuse have been intensively studied, due to their negative consequences in the general population. Evidence-based literature emphasizes that alcohol craving plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of alcohol-drinking patterns. Many individuals develop Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD); significantly, after treatment many also experience relapses, in which alcohol craving has been repeatedly implicated. Cue-exposure therapy (CET) has been widely used in the treatment of alcohol misuse, but the results are inconsistent. Virtual reality (VR) can add effectiveness to cue-exposure techniques by providing multiple variables and inputs that enable personalized alcohol use assessment and treatment. The aim of this review was to examine the applications of virtual reality in individuals who misuse alcohol.


We conducted an exhaustive literature search of the Web of Science, Scopus, Embase, Google Scholar, and PsycInfo databases, using as search items terms such as "alcohol" and its derivates, and virtual reality.


We identified 13 studies on alcohol craving that implemented virtual reality as an assessment or treatment tool.


The studies that incorporate VR present clear limitations. First, no clinical trials were conducted to explore the efficacy of the VR as a treatment tool; nor were there any studies of the generalization of craving responses in the real world, or of the long-term effects of VR treatment. Despite these limitations, the studies included showed consistent results as regards eliciting and reducing alcohol craving. We suggest that VR shows promise as a tool for the assessment and treatment of craving among individuals with alcohol misuse. Further studies implementing VR in the field of alcohol consumption are now required.


Alcohol misuse; Assessment; Craving; Treatment; Virtual reality

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