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What Video Game Addiction and Opioids Have in Common

What Video Game Addiction and Opioids Have in Common

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Right away, there are going to be some people reading this who (like me) love to spend more than a few hours staring at a screen, smashing buttons on a controller. Before you assume we are saying video games and opioids are the same- we are not. But what we are doing is looking at what they do have in common.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would be classifying gaming disorder as an official mental health diagnosis. For years, mental health professionals have recognized behaviors they thought proved video game addiction as a serious problem. With this new stance on video game addiction, there comes plenty of controversy and contention. Some people argue that this is an unfair characterization of avid gamers, while others are truly convinced there is enough evidence to support the need for gaming disorder intervention.

So, without taking a side, let us look at the new concept of video game addiction and gaming disorder while comparing it to another well-known addiction- opioids.

WHO Decides When Gaming Is Too Much?

As of 2016, WHO has 191 member states and other countries that have been granted observance status. Despite the various differences in language, culture and medical traditions they all seem to agree on common definitions of diseases. These outlines are included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). WHO is an agency of the United Nations, and specializes in international public health.

According to the most recent edition of the ICD, the criteria for people who may suffer from a video game addiction include those who allow gaming to negatively impact:

  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Family
  • Social lives

The WHO definition of gaming disorder is pretty broad. This kind of ambiguity could lead to anyone who just spends a little too much time playing Xbox on the weekend to being labeled with a video game addiction. Thankfully, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed a set of slightly more detailed diagnostic criteria. These criteria will probably be akin to those put forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for Internet gambling disorder. For one to qualify for that diagnosis, their gambling/gaming would create “significant issues with functioning.” Also, it would call for five of the following signs:

  • Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not playing games
  • Tolerance for gaming; need to spend more time playing to be satisfied
  • At least one failed attempt to stop or cut back on playing games
  • A loss of interest in other activities
  • Overuse of digital games despite realizing the impairment they have caused
  • Lying to others about game usage
  • Using gaming to escape or relieve anxiety or guilt
  • Impaired or lost relationships due to excessive gaming

According to the general consensus, video game addiction can develop at any age. However, many national studies primarily focus on kids under the age of 18.

Video Game Addiction VS Opioid Addiction

If we start by just looking at those signs of video game addiction, we can already see some parallels starting to shape up. For people who struggle with opioid abuse, signs of addiction can also include negative impacts on family, occupation, social life and education. Looking more at the break down of video game addiction symptoms, we can draw even more similarities.

Reward Response

One reason people use drugs is very closely connected to why they play video games- how the brain rewards them. For those with video game addiction, there are functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system. This is a group of structures in the brain commonly associated with feeling pleasure, learning, and motivation.

The same characterization can be made of opioid use. When someone addicted to opioids uses these drugs, they also experience activity in the brain’s reward system. While it may not stimulate learning and motivation in the same way, those pleasure sensors will light up with activity.

Image studies have shown that the urge to play video games activates the same brain regions that light up when illicit drug users even think about using.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Surely, we aren’t going to say that people who struggle with a gaming disorder experience the same intense and harmful withdrawal symptoms as those who abuse opioids, but we can see that withdrawal is still a common thread. According to Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, some of the common video game withdrawal symptoms that we often see with opioid addiction include:

  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Obsessive thoughts

Of course, those who struggle with opioid abuse deal with a very different level of severity when it comes to withdrawal. The symptoms associated with opioid addiction are more likely to create a serious health risk than those currently attributed to video games.

Co-occurring Issues

For a lot of people who struggle with an addiction of any kind, there are often co-occurring issues or disorders. When you look at some of the research we find video game addiction is no different. Professor Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University has researched game addiction for several years. In one three year study of over 3,000 kids, he found that people who do develop compulsive gaming habits see an increase in:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social phobia symptoms

Also, rates of ADHD are very high among the population of people who struggle with what might qualify as a gaming disorder. When it comes to opioids, co-occurring issues are also very common, including depression and anxiety disorders.

Tolerance and Obsession

It is true that just like with drug use, you can develop a tolerance to video games. When once you would be content with an hour or two of playing a game to take you out of yourself for a while, over time you will be drawn more and more into spending time playing the game.

Have you ever decided to go on an all-nighter with a RPG or FPS? Some people are looking at those letters and wondering what language of nerd I’m speaking. That is ok. But for my fellow gamers, many of you probably know the feeling that there is never enough time to rack up those upgrades or find the perfect save point. Every time you say “I’ll stop after this boss fight,” only to find yourself an hour later customizing your avatar- that is the obsession.

Now while we can’t say that this obsession is always the same for everyone, it is still something to consider. Surely we should not label everyone who dedicates time to beating their high score with video game addiction. Still, when someone needs to play more and more to feel satisfied, that is the tolerance building. With opioids, this is the body needing more of the drug to get the same euphoric effect over time; or just needing it to feel “normal”.

And when you spend all day at the office thinking about what you’re going to spend all that XP on when you finally get home, the obsession might be starting to impair the rest of your life. With opioids and other drugs, this looks like spending all day planning to use or thinking about how to get more.

Innovative Addiction Treatment

At this point, gaming disorder is still a new diagnosis, so most facilities are still working on effective treatment plans. As more research becomes available, there will probably be a variety of approaches to video game addiction treatment. Still, the need for innovative addiction treatment is pretty obvious when considering an addiction that is based on technology.

For most addiction recovery programs, the idea of abstinence is a common cornerstone. Not using drugs is kind of the whole point of getting clean and sober. However, when it comes to things like internet gaming disorder, it is hard to be completely abstinent from the internet in 2018. Taking into account that fact that most people use the internet for their work, or for staying connected socially, you find it is pretty much impossible to remain offline for long. Therefore, any new ideas around cognitive behavioral therapy and psychiatry can make a big difference.

While most people know that video game addiction is nowhere near as severe as opioid addiction, we still think making these kinds of connections may help people better understand the idea of gaming disorder. Many healthcare professionals believe that one problem facing effective video game addiction treatment is the idea that it is not harmful.

When it comes to opioids and other drugs, innovative addiction treatment can be the difference between life and death. Safe medical detox is a vital part of building a stable foundation for long-term sobriety. People who struggle with addiction also need more than just a reliance on abstinence. This is why holistic addiction treatment is so important with addressing the opioid crisis in America today.

Palm Partners Recovery Center believes that personalized and holistic addiction treatment is essential to helping people struggling with drugs or alcohol to not only overcome their addictions, but to transform their lives. No matter what your addiction, you should have access to compassionate care and options for effective care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

97 Percent of Online Opioid Pharmacies are Illegal

97 Percent of Online Opioid Pharmacies are Illegal

Next time you are shopping around online and come across a deal on your prescriptions, take a closer look.

With the crackdown on opioids happening all over the nation, many people are finding new ways to try and get their hands on these powerful prescription drugs. Some may be illicit drug traffickers looking for a new way to get their supply and reduce the risk. Meanwhile, others may be everyday people looking for a cheaper, easier method to get their pain management medications. Either way, if you are getting your drugs online, it’s more than likely you’re breaking the law.

Online Opioid Pharmacies or Digital Drug Dealers

The internet is famous for making our lives more convenient. Whether we are shopping for new shoes, movie tickets, or even our weekly groceries, the internet has found a way to let it be a mouse click or touch-screen tap away. So of course, many would be willing to believe you could order plenty of your much-needed medications online. Yet, with a new report by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) we find most of these sales are actually illegitimate.

The report was initially released on opioid sales on the darknet. However, during the research, the CSIP found that people on both the Dark Web and “surface web” sell drugs like opioid painkillers. The distribution of these potent medications is being done through online opioid pharmacies. Nonetheless, according to the FDA:

  • 97% of online pharmacies operate illegally

Just to break things down a little bit, let us explain two key terms.

  • Surface Web

The surface web is the portion of the world wide web as we know it that is readily available to the general public. This is where you do most of your online shopping, social media activity, and probably where you are reading this article right now.

Strangely, even though people would think that anything on the surface web is probably safer, the CSIP report states that “surface websites” actually involve higher risks for scams. For example, this would be non-delivery schemes where the site takes your money without producing a product, or credit card and identity theft.

  • Dark Web

This is the World Wide Web content that exists on “darknets”. These are networks that use the internet, but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the “deep web”, which is the part of the internet not indexed by search engines.

The Dark Web is where a lot of the internet’s most illicit activities actually happen. It is a modern digital underground.

Many of these so-called online opioid pharmacies are only click-baiting people into the illicit drug trade. In reality, these are drug-dealing websites set up to look like they simply sell prescription pills to those in need. Some even go as far as to offer prescriptions for the drugs. CSIP’s report also states that these online pharmacies will attempt to use social media platforms to advertise their products, including:

Some of these online opioid pharmacies will claim on their website that they are legitimate and legally approved. However, CSIP’s executive director Marjorie Clifton says that’s impossible for most of them. In one interview Clifton states:

“It’s absolutely illegal to buy opioids on the internet.”

Now, it is not entirely illegal to operate a pharmacy online. Clifton said that some non-opioid-selling pharmacies are legal. However, these entities do have to follow certain rules. For example:

  • They must have a brick-and-mortar location
  • Must be licensed in every state that they sell to

You can verify that the pharmacy that you’re buying from is legal by using tools created by the CSIP.

Not only is it risking legal action to use these illegitimate sources, it is also a serious health risk. Online opioid pharmacies may seem like an economical and efficient way to get medication, but non-certified pharmacies present significant danger because there is no way of knowing what you are getting. Clifton states:

“One, you might not get the concentration you thought you were going to get, it could be a placebo.”

“There have been cases when it’s rat poison or lead paint. So you have no idea what you’re taking if you’re not buying from a certified pharmacy.”

It is already dangerous enough for getting these medications illegally on the street. Over the years there have been countless reports of other powerful and toxic substances being pressed into forged pill forms. That risk is very real when buying drugs from an anonymous source over the internet.

Internet Associations Fighting Back

CSIP is an organization made up of representatives of companies like Google and Microsoft. Clifton says there are no ties between this tech industry collaboration and the pharmaceutical industry. The organization says it is committed to reducing harm from illegitimate online opioid pharmacies. Clifton also says that the issue of drug addiction is personally devastating, adding that several board members have lost loved ones to addiction.

So far, CSIP has removed more than 100 million ads and social media posts. The organization has effectively shut down thousands of illegal online opioid pharmacies. Many of these sites were functionally the same illegal pharmacies operating with different URL’s, but belonging to the same scammers.

Even though increased regulation resulted in a small jump in darknet sales, the vast majority of prescription drug abuse comes from prescriptions written by actual doctors. Overall, the CSIP report found that less than 5% of opioids purchased in the US came from anywhere on the internet. CSIP reports were also utilized in the Online Opioid Summit hosted by the FDA last month when top names in internet stakeholders got together with advocacy groups and other government officials to discuss the role internet companies play in combatting the opioid crisis. Most of the tech industry insists they should not be blamed for the opioid crisis.

Still, the organization is trying to play a part in eliminating online opioid pharmacies. Beyond that, we should also focus on promoting safe medical detox opportunities, along with dual diagnosis programs and holistic drug treatment options.

When we talk about fighting the spread of addiction, one thing we have to remember is to make sure people looking for help get all the information they need. Palm Partners Recovery Center believes that we should also focus on using our digital footprint to help people learn about the risks associated with substance abuse, and give them the opportunity to learn about safe and effective treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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