Virtual Reality Is Not The Latest Drug
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Virtual Reality Is Not The Latest Drug


Oculus Rift, the most realistic virtual reality gaming experience, takes you on a mind trip and is being compared to hallucinogenic drugs. It simulates space travel, roller coaster rides, skydiving, flying and wandering through medieval castles and Tuscan villas. You can even play pong with your face, and who hasn’t wanted to do that? (Quick answer: everyone.) You strap on and take off. And through the power of technology, your mind thinks it’s somewhere else—almost like a drug experience.

Get Me Outta Here

This is great news because I will never stop wanting to get high. Not like drug-high, just high. I will always want a thrill, a chill or a spill—something to take me away for a few hours, or to shut off my brain for a bit. And I’m not alone in this. Well, obviously, there are millions of addicts, but I mean that wanting a thrill is completely normal. Arcades are everywhere, and video games are on phones. Families save all year to trek to Disney World, and adventure travel is a $263 billion industry. Have you ever been to a picnic and seen a kid playing in the yard, spinning in circles? That’s to get a dizzy little buzz, because it’s fun. It’s harmless fun.

Harmless fun is vital to everyone, but especially to a recovering addict. The Buddha said that humans have monkey minds. No kidding. My brain can feel like it’s bouncing off the walls, and sometimes I treat it like a child throwing a tantrum—I try to distract it. I’ve gone through phases of mind-melting interests, like binge-playing Scrabble, Angry Birds, Bubble Mania and manically doing The New York Times crossword puzzle. I’ve taken up meditation and cooking and become a raw food chef. Last weekend I put together four shelving units while watching both seasons of Hemlock Grove. You’ve got to do something with your time, right? And for people in recovery, it needs to be something safe and relatively healthy.

Nice Try but It’s Not Exactly Altering Brain Chemistry

For the most part, I believe that comparing Oculus Rift to drugs is simply an effort to sensationalize. We all know a video game is nothing like a drug. If I trip out on virtual reality, the drug experience is over when I take off the headgear. If I trip out on an illicit substance, well, the drug experience isn’t over until I pass out or run out of drugs.

This, of course, isn’t true for the 6% (according to one study) of tech addicts out there; the couple that allowed their baby to starve to death as they went on 12-hour online binges; the guy who suffered a massive blood clot from being at the computer for hours; the man whose sister believes he’s homeless because of his addiction to the Internet.

If you’re playing Oculus Rift in a “regular” way, you’re simply not having a drug-like experience. Drugs don’t give a fun “virtual reality” experience; drugs give a global “skewed reality” experience. On drugs, my occipital lobe isn’t simply tricked into believing that I’m somewhere else; my perception of all of reality is off. I assure you that if I play a little too much Oculus Rift, I’m not going to make out with three guys, try to have sex with them, then park my car on a tree. Promise. On drugs, I can promise none of those things.

So, I’m glad Oculus Rift is becoming available because it sounds super fun. But I know drugs, and for me, you, Oculus Rift, are nothing like drugs.

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About Author

Laura House is a sober writer and comedian. She was born in Grand Prairie, Texas, educated at the University of Texas at Austin, and lives and works in Los Angeles. She's written on the sketch show Blue Collar TV, and half-hour sit-coms including The George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Loosely Exactly Nicole, as well as the Emmy-winning shows Samantha Who and Mom. In addition she has developed four original pilots with ABC, FX and Nickelodeon. She currently works as a producer on the BAFTA-winning BBC series, The Secret Life of Boys. She performs at recovery shows all over the country. She recently performed at the NA world convention in Orlando. Her album Mouth Punch is available on all platforms.