FEHD researchers have applied a radically new method to examine drug dependence levels in users.
At EdUHK's Integrated Centre for Wellbeing, researchers used eye-tracking technology to identify the drug dependence levels of rehabilitated addicts and drug abusers. Normally, a questionnaire on drug involvement would be used to review the effectiveness drug rehabilitation programmes.
Co-Director of I-WELL Professor Leung Chi Hung said that the research studied the instant reaction of participants to drug-related pictures and words. This he said would help to detect a patient's risk of relapse, and was a great contribution in assessing the effectiveness of drug rehabilitation programmes.
I-WELL’s research involved 92 people, including 36 rehabilitated drug abusers, 6 inpatient rehabilitees, and a baseline group of 8 active drug abusers and 32 undergraduate students. Each group looked at an array of images and words, some of them drug-related, before completing three tasks: naming the colour of a word in the Colour Stroop Task; finding small dots of light after viewing drug-related images in the Dot Probe Task; and classifying words as “positive” or “negative”. Participants’ eye movements and reaction times were then analyzed to see how strongly their attention was drawn towards drug stimuli.
Results showed that active drug abusers were more strongly influenced than the other groups by visual cues of drugs. Active drug abusers demonstrated slower reaction times and heavier drug dependence compared to rehabilitated abusers and the control group students.
“Our eyes automatically follow what interests us or appeals to us. Eye-tracking reveals our intuitive sense,” said Professor Leung. “The measurements can help us identify if relapse prevention is required. It can also be applied to the study for other addictions, such as gambling or sex.”
This research was conducted in collaboration with Cheer Lutheran Centre, which runs a rehabilitation programme called “We-Cycle” to help recovering drug addicts to get back into the society.
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