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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.

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Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

 Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, making this the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.

According to Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the local precinct, the man entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6.

An employee at the café found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure.

“He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.

“His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his body had entered rigor mortis, meaning that it had already begun to stiffen – an indication that he must have been dead for at least several hours before being noticed.

Police further added that gamers in the café continued playing their online games as if nothing had happened, even when the police and paramedics arrived.

Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

“The CCTV footage from the Internet cafe showed that he had a small struggle before he collapsed motionless,” said Wu.

A police statement added that the cold temperatures and over-exhaustion from the long hours spent playing games likely contributed to the man’s cardiac arrest.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days.

“When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying.

“That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning.”

Video Game Addiction Has Affected Others

Marathon sessions of online gaming in Taiwan have resulted in other deaths recently, too.

Similarly, a 38-year-old man was also found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight.

And previously, back in 2012, the dead body of man went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff. The victim in this case had also died while playing online games for a marathon session.

Addiction can involve behaviors not related to taking drugs or drinking excessively. Many people struggle with obsessions to compulsively do things that affect them negatively, whether you’re addicted to the internet, gaming, gambling, sex, eating, or any other behavior that is causing problems in your life, such as destroying relationships, your health, or interfering with your job, please call us at toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. This is someone who is trained and equipped to answer your questions. Often times, it’s someone who is in recovery from some form of addiction, themselves.  

Help for Gaming Addiction

Help for Gaming Addiction

Help for Gaming Addiction: What is Gaming Addiction?

Video game addiction is described as an excessive or compulsive use of computer games or video games, like online gaming, which interferes with a person’s everyday life. Video game addiction may present as compulsive game-playing that is paired with increased social isolation, mood swings, diminished imagination, and hyper-focus on in-game achievements, to the exclusion of other events in life.

Help for Gaming Addiction: It’s a Real Problem for Some

And, although some would disagree whether or not this is a real addiction, you can follow any kind of news trends and find instances that sound a lot like there really is such a thing as gaming addiction; cases such as people suffering exhaustion after playing video games for 50 hours straight, teens killing their parents for taking away their games, and parents neglecting infants while being mesmerized by the online world.

And now, more recently, cases in which people have died after online gaming binges: two such cases occurred already in 2015 (and we’re still in first month of the new year); the other of which occurred in 2012.

The medical community recognizes certain behaviors – not just the abuse of substances as many think – as addictive. According to psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, the following are criteria for an addiction:

  • The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to get through the day
  • If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, they become irritable and miserable

Help for Gaming Addiction: Treatment

Similar to treatment for substance abuse and addiction, there are rehabilitation centers that offer programs for addictive behaviors such as gambling and online gaming. Rehabs that provide help for gaming addiction do this in several ways.

The first way that treatment helps is it separates the gamer from the materials they need in which to continue “using.” In this way, the process of breaking the cycle of gaming can begin. You will be in a comfortable and safe place where you will begin to heal from the obsession and compulsivity to get online and continue gaming.

The second way in which help for gaming addiction works is that it will offer you healthy coping tools for dealing with the behaviors that have come to control your life. Through group and individual therapy sessions, you will address the ways your gaming addiction has negatively impacted your life and learn to rebuild relationships, specifically, and a life anew, in general.

Individual therapy will allow you to speak one-on-one with a licensed therapist with whom you will formulate a treatment plan and set treatment goals that you want to accomplish while getting help for gaming addiction.

Group sessions are just as important to your rehabilitation. Peer support has been shown to be immensely beneficial to the client who wishes to get over their gaming addiction. This works in two ways: you will receive peer support and feedback as well as be able to give support and feedback, which will help you form connections for yourself when it comes to healing and recovering from your online gaming addiction or other video game addiction.

Do you experience obsessive thoughts and a compulsion to engage is certain behaviors? Has it made your life unmanageable – causing strained relationships, financial problems, and other negative consequences such as risks to your health? Do you feel irritable and moody when you try to stop? It might be time to seek professional help. Call an Addiction Specialist today at toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Combo Breaker: Fighting Internet Gaming Addiction

Combo Breaker: Fighting Internet Gaming Addiction

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

Author: Justin Mckibben

I don’t know about you, but if you put me in front of a game, hook me up to the internet and tell me to go crazy- I’ll probably do exactly that, and a little crazier than you intended. So a week later when you peel me from the couch and scrape the junk-food off my shirt, we can talk about my thoughts on internet and internet gaming addiction. For years now there have been differing opinions in the debate on how internet addiction can impact people, and how to best treat those afflicted.

Some think internet addiction in connection to gaming is reaching new levels, especially with many people getting wrapped up into internet gambling. As always different theories promote different answers, and now we can take a look at two countries as they are attempting to treat a problem that seems to have the same effect in both, but the two approaches are very different.

American Internet Addiction Therapy

Since September 9th, 2013 America’s first hospital–based Internet addition program has set up shop at Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pennsylvania.  First the patients undergo an extensive evaluation and a “digital detox” that prohibits phone, tablet or access to the internet for at least 72 hours. Then they’re admitted to attend therapy sessions and educational seminars to help them get their internet compulsion under control.

The program is run by Kimberly Young, a psychologist who began studying internet addiction in 1994.  In 1995, she founded the Center for Internet Addiction, and as the World Wide Web became more pervasive, her phone started to ring.

Young defined Internet addiction more specifically by the consequences of overusing the internet, rather than the number of hours spent online. She said there was a difference between people who depended on modern technology but could balance their online life with their offline life, and people whose obsession prevented them from functioning normally.

This facility is just one part of a growing field of study as far as the possible complications of internet addiction, and it’s relation to social media and smartphone technology.

Chinese Centers for Internet Addiction

There are currently 62 boys and six girls in treatment at what is known as China’s oldest Internet addiction treatment center in Beijing, but these individuals experience a rehabilitation program very much unlike the ones we use here.

The facility is run by military doctor Toa Ren, and in its time of active service the center has treated 5,000 people since 2004. The aim of this program is to break the habits of game-addicted teens through labor and military drills, while monitoring the effects of gaming on their neurological activity.

These drills and boot-camp style activities seem very close to the kind of “tough-love” approach that has been tried before in places like the Scared Straight programs in the United States. While some may felt these tactics were effective, the country as a whole seems to have considered the “tough love” style treatment to be discredited and actually harmful for teens.

Tao Ren believes that the rising problem is partly due to the high number of children without siblings who he says live in homes where they are home alone more often because parents work a lot. Stiff competition and economic problems in the region also contribute to the pressure on young people to do well at school, and online gaming can provide some of the needed connection and sense of community that these kids are missing in their isolation, but also an escape from the stiff demands of the world around them.

Center of Controversy

With approximately 632 million internet users and 113,000 internet cafes dispersed around China, including locations that operate 24 hours a day, experts estimate that 10% or 33 million Chinese people are addicted to the internet, some even calling it “electronic heroin”. When considering the evolution of technology and the fact the smartphones and WiFi are keeping people more connected than ever, that may even be a modest prediction.

The government has taken various measures to tackle the problem, including:

  • military-style detox centerswhich claim to “cure” them through therapy
  • medication
  • rigorous physical exercises
  • zero access to the web

But still, many of these facilities are privately run, and the people running them tend to have minimal healthcare experience. In addition, the living conditions can be extreme, and at times even life-threatening

China’s internet addiction treatment centers are highly controversial and in their history there have been a number of intense and disturbing incidences that make some wonder how effective these treatment methods could be in comparison to safety.

  • In 2009 a 15 year old died less than a day after his parents sent him to a camp in the southern Guangxi province. Deng Senshan was allegedly beaten to death by a teacher, and this was not the first reported death at this facility.
  • Ministry of Health recently banned the use of electric shock therapy at another facility

Internet addiction is consistently becoming more understood and acknowledged as a hazardous compulsive condition, and there are theories as to how to take preventive steps and how to identify the more unhealthy behavior. A few countries are trying on a few treatment methods, and they are offering some very different perspectives. Time will tell how much we can learn about the full extent of symptoms and risks associated with internet addiction, and hopefully more productive and effective treatment will come to light.

There are so many forms of compulsive behavior that evolve into devastating and dangerous addictions. Internet addiction and dependence on social media is being linked to the more common forms of addiction like drug abuse. Regardless of what it is that is pulling you down, there is a whole world of healthcare devoted to changing your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not hesitate any longer. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone!

Is Video Game Addiction a Real Thing?

Is Video Game Addiction a Real Thing?

By Cheryl Steinberg

If you track the sensational media stories over, say, the past five years, they have increasingly described people suffering exhaustion after playing video games for 50 hours straight, teens killing their parents for taking away their games, and parents neglecting infants while being mesmerized by the online world.

To those who recognize Video Game Addiction, it is described as an excessive or compulsive use of computer games or video games, which interferes with a person’s everyday life…Video game addiction may present as compulsive game-playing; social isolation; mood swings; diminished imagination; and hyper-focus on in-game achievements, to the exclusion of other events in life.”

Yet not everyone agrees that video game addiction is a real thing.

“I do not believe that the concept of addiction is useful,” says Jackson Toby, emeritus professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It only describes strong temptations; it does not explain strong temptations. What makes the temptation so strong? The memory of past pleasant experiences with the behaviour that we are talking about, in this case video games.” Toby added, “I don’t believe that someone can be addicted to video games.”

Is Video Game Addiction a Real Thing?

Though most people think ‘drugs or alcohol’ when they hear the term addiction, the medical community recognizes certain behaviors to be addictive, as well. In a WebMD feature on the definition of addiction, psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, describes the following criteria for an addiction:

  • The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to get through the day
  • If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, they become irritable and miserable

Kimberly Young, PsyD, clinical director of the Center for On-Line Addiction and author of Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction — and a Winning Strategy for Recovery says compulsive gaming meets these criteria; she has even seen severe withdrawal symptoms in who she’s deemed game addicts. “They become angry, violent, or depressed. If [parents] take away the computer, their child sits in the corner and cries, refuses to eat, sleep, or do anything.” Young tells WebMD, “It’s a clinical impulse control disorder;” an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling.

Back in 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) said it would not be listing video game addiction as a mental disorder in that year’s edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, the APA added that it was considering including an appendix consisting of reward-seeking behavioral disorders, such as video game and internet addiction, so as to “encourage further study.”

In May 2013, the American Psychiatrist Association (APA) proposed criteria for video game addiction in the DSM, again stating that there was not enough evidence to support including it as an official mental disorder. However, proposed criteria for “Internet Gaming Disorder” are included in Section 3, Conditions for Further Study. While Internet Gaming Disorder is proposed as a disorder, it is still unclear as to whether obsessive and compulsive gaming is a result of – to some extent – other psychological disorders.

“People play those games often in a desire to meet their social needs,” said Hilarie Cash, a Washington state therapist who runs a six-bed inpatient program for internet and video game addicts. “There’s a sense of friendship and self-esteem you develop with your team-mates, you can compete and be co-operative. It really feels as though it meets your social needs.”

Do you experience obsessive thoughts and nagging compulsions to engage is certain behaviors? Has it made your life unmanageable – causing strained relationships, financial problems, and other negative consequences? Do you feel irritable and moody when you try to stop? It might be time to seek professional help. Call an Addiction Specialist today at toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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