(Bloomberg View) -- Despite all efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, the crisis continues to destroy lives and contribute to the growing gap in life expectancy by income and education in the U.S. But it appears that some relief may come from an unexpected source: virtual reality. Anyone who thinks virtual reality is just a sideshow for gamers should pay close attention to the stunning results it’s achieving in the medical world.

A virtual reality game called SnowWorld -- in which patients throw snowballs at snowmen while virtually immersed in a white, snow-covered environment -- has been used for more than 20 years to relieve the pain experienced by burn victims, and it’s been surprisingly effective. As David Rhew, the chief medical officer at Samsung Electronics America, recently explained to me, the promising results from burn management have led to broader use of virtual reality in an array of medical settings, including the type of chronic pain that leads to opioid abuse.

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