China’s drug rehab centers use VR to catch addicts who still want a fix

China’s mandatory drug rehab centers are using VR technology to catch addicts who lie about their drug dependency.

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

Chinese rehab centers have come up with a high-tech solution for catching inmates who lie about their addiction, tempting them with virtual reality.

A pilot program in Shanghai is using VR headsets to discover whether addicts still crave drugs, flashing them a series of realistic scenes that test whether they’re excited by the prospect of using a banned substance, according to The South China Morning Post. For instance, an addict lingering over a scene of people sharing drugs might indicate he or she is still interested in getting high.

The headset tracks eyeball movement, while other accessories monitor rises in body temperature and heart rate to give staff a sense of an addict’s desire for drugs.

China requires individuals caught possessing or using drugs to spend two years at a rehab facility though they can be released for good behavior, according to SCMP. The VR system is designed to prevent addicts from faking their way out of the rehab facilities by lying about their drug dependency.

The VR system is already in use at several rehab centers in Shanghai and may expand to other facilities after experts approved it at a convention in April, according to local media. If the results are significant, the government will reportedly standardize the program.

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