Creating a VR Experience to Teach Teens about Opioid Addiction

So for the next year I will be working on a research project building a VR game that works as an educational tool for understanding Opioid Addiction.

We are still at a a brainstorming stage but we want it to be an experience that teaches teens how to identify people with opioid addiction, form empathic bonds with digital characters that struggle with the illness, as well as detailing the course of treatment and maintenance.

During our brainstorming session we decided we want the game to have light RPG elements where the players engage in decision making and face the consequences of their actions (Much like Telltale/Quantic dream). We also want each chapter in the game to end with a reflection that the participants can discuss.

One of our main ideas is to detail a story of a family (mother, father, daughter, son) dealing with opioid addiction with the son. We were thinking of maybe different chapters focusing on the perspective of different characters that the player has to fill in for. (Much like That Dragon, Cancer).

We are still in a state of flux so none of this might actually make it into the final cut but I really want to be open to all the possibilities, which is Why I’ve come here.

I’d Really like your help, if you know of any good research using VR as an educational tool for mental illness especially Addiction or any article really. Any advice or suggestion is welcome.


I LOVE this idea. I don’t have research to point you to, but I can lend some weight to the need for this. I’m at a public university and we’re trying to find ways to educate AODA issues in an interactive and meaningful way instead of only passive campaigns (which have their own benefit, of course). Many colleges have game rooms, and I can see a use for this as a training/awareness tool at wellness fairs and other events. It would be a great community to propose the game to, once/if it’s developed.

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I love this idea! One thing you might want to consider is the approach you take to talking about treatments. For example, 12-step recovery programs and a strict disease/illness approach might not work for everyone. The language may feel disempowering for individuals and families, and this framing may not actually reduce stigma (e.g., Corrigan and Watson’s 2004 article At Issue: [At Issue: Stop the Stigma: Call Mental Illness a Brain Disease](; Gergel’s 2014 “Too similar, too different: the paradoxical dualism of psychiatric stigma”. In any case, happy to talk more about it. I’m with Isabela Granic’s GEMH Lab at Radboud and have a background in public health (specifically addictions), developmental psychopathology and mental health recovery. Best of luck! [Edit: Sorry; I used the link button but you still get the enormous link itself rather than the link text!]

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Thanks so much for the reply, I am personally very invested in this. Ever since I was a teen I’ve always been involved in Substance Use related community services. Growing up, I always thought I would be an addictions psychiatrist because its a population I had always been exposed to and felt comfortable working with. When I got to medschool I fell in love with Child and Adolescent psychiatry (Especially the idea of early intervention) and Geek Therapy along with it. All of these experience me make me the person I am today and I am blessed to have found my place in a research study like this one that just so elegantly places all these peices of my identity together.

I looked up the paper on google cause the link wouldnt send. Im excited to read the article and get back to you on it. Its fascinating how often attempts to lessen stigma or adress issues in media can be counterproductive. Its our responsibility as clinicians to always evaluate the literature for feedback and be able to discern what works vs what doesn’t. I’ll get back to you as soon as I finish the paper,

Thanks so much for your contribution.