Project ID NS-MH2023_16


Co Supervisor 1A IoPPN/AddictionsWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B IoPPN/AddictionsWebsite

Feasibility and acceptability of virtual reality to improve abstinence: Proof-of-concept of an intervention for alcohol use disorders

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a highly prevalent disorder. The World Health Organisation has estimated that approximately 3 million people die each year from the harmful use of alcohol. Psychological interventions and pharmacological treatments are widely available, but many individuals diagnosed with AUD experience several relapses after treatment. More research is needed to expand treatment approaches.

Cue Exposure Therapy (CET) is one of the most applied exposure techniques that has been used for several decades. And although it is recommended by NICE, the quality of evidence is moderate and further research is required.

CET attempts to reduce cue reactivity (i.e., craving) through extinction by repeatedly exposing an individual to an alcohol-related cue, resulting in habituation and a decrease in cue reaction.

Virtual reality (VR) simulates real-life situations and permits the presentation and strict control of stimuli of a real-life situation. It can add effectiveness to cue-exposure techniques by providing multiple variables and inputs that improve salience of stimuli to create a fully immersive and personalised experience.

This PhD aims to develop a proof-of-concept VR intervention to train refusal skills in patients undergoing treatment for AUD and assess its feasibility and acceptability.

Year 1, review of the literature and development of proof-of-concept VR intervention;

Year 2, explore acceptability and feasibility of this intervention in a clinical setting for both patients and staff focussing on potential benefits and implementation barriers;

Year 3, determine if it is viable to conduct a large-scale trial to assess efficacy of intervention and writing up.

One representative publication from each co-supervisor:

Donoghue K, Patton R, Phillips T, Deluca P & Drummond C. 2014. The effectiveness of electronic Screening and Brief Intervention (eSBI) for reducing levels of alcohol consumption.  A Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Internet Medical Research, 16(6):e142. DOI:10.2196/jmir.3193

Phillips, T., Huang, C., Roberts, E., & Drummond, C. (2020). Specialist alcohol inpatient treatment admissions and non-specialist hospital admissions for alcohol withdrawal in England: an inverse relationship. Alcohol and Alcoholism.