Through a monitor darkly

An online meth house, created in virtual world Second Life, has been created, tested and found to reliably induce drug cravings in methamphetamine users – in an experimental study just published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.

A ‘meth house’ is where methamphetamine users go to buy, take or make speed and regular users may spend long periods of time there. Being able to reliably induce drug cravings in the research lab is useful as it allows controlled studies to be more easily conducted.

The researchers in this study, led by psychiatrist Christopher Culbertson, compared the reactions of 17 speed users to four situations: a video of a meth house, a neutral video, a Second Life simulation of a meth house and an average looking flat recreated in the online world.

Below are some of the images of the meth house used in the study and you can see more in a description on the project’s web pages.

It turns out that the interactive Second Life meth house reliably induced the strongest cravings.

The study bears a sideways resemblance to Philip K. Dick’s novel A Scanner Darkly which plays with themes of shifting realities and surveillance in a community of stimulant drug users.

Link to PubMed entry for study.
Link to research team’s web page on the project.

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