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Digital drug: Addiction to the Internet generates treatment programs in the U.S.

When Danny Reagan was 13, he began to show signs of what doctors usually associate with drug addiction. She became agitated, secretly and withdrew from her friends. He left baseball and boy scouts, and stopped doing homework and showering.

But I was not using drugs. He was hooked on YouTube and video games, to the point that he could not do anything else. As doctors confirm, he was addicted to his electronics.

"After getting my console, I've been in love with that," said Danny, now 16 and a junior high school in Cincinnati. "I liked being able to go out and just relax."

Danny was different from the typical American teenagers connected. Psychiatrists say Internet addiction, which is characterized by the loss of control over the use of Internet and does not take into account its consequences, affects up to 8% of Americans, Americans and is increasingly common throughout the world.

"We are all slightly addicted. I think this is obvious to see in our behavior," said psychiatrist Kimberly Young, who has led the field of research since he founded the Addiction Internet Center in 1995. "It becomes a public health concern, obviously, since health is influenced by behavior."

Psychiatrists, like Young, who have studied compulsive behavior over the internet for decades, now see more cases, causing a wave of new treatment programs to open up in the United States. Mental health centers in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and other states are adding an Internet addiction treatment to their own line of services.

Some skeptics see Internet addiction as a false condition, designed by teenagers who refuse to leave smartphones, and Reagans say they have had problems explaining to the extended family.

Anthony Bean, a psychologist and author of the clinic guide for video game therapy, said that excessive use of games and the internet could indicate other mental illnesses, but it should not be called independent disorders

"It's like prying behavior without really understanding what's happening," he said.

& # 39; REBOOT & # 39;

Initially, Danny's parents brought him to the doctors and made him sign contracts to limit his use on the Internet. Nothing worked until they discovered a pioneer residential therapy center in Mason, Ohio, about 22 miles (35 km) south of Cincinnati.

The "Reboot" program of the Lindner Center for Hope offers a hospital treatment for people between 11 and 17 who, like Danny, have addictions such as online games, games of chance, social media, pornography and sexting, often to escape the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Danny was diagnosed with a 5-year care deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorder at 6, and doctors said he developed an Internet addiction to deal with them disorders

Patients "Restart" spend 28 days in a suburban facility equipped with 16 rooms, classrooms, a gym and a dining room. They perform diagnostic tests, psychotherapy and learn to moderate their use on the Internet. Chris Tuell, Clinical Director of Addiction Services, started the program in December after seeing several cases, including Danny, where young people were using the Internet to "self-medicate" instead of drugs and alcohol .

The Internet, though not officially recognized as an addictive substance, also disguises the reward system of the brain triggering the release of chemical products that induce pleasure and is accessible at an early age, said Tuell.

"The brain does not matter what it is, whether it is thrown by the throat or I put it to the nose or I see it with my eyes or do it with my hands," said Tuell. "They are producing many of the same neurochemicals in the brain."

However, the recovery of Internet addiction is different from the other addictions because it is not about "getting sober," Tuell said. Internet has become inevitable and essential in schools, at home and in the workplace.

"It's always there," Danny said, leaving his smartphone. "I'm sorry in your pocket. But I'm better off ignoring it."


Medical experts have begun to take Internet addiction more seriously.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatry Association do not recognize Internet addiction as a disorder. Last year, however, WHO acknowledged the most specific game disorder after research years in China, South Korea and Taiwan, where physicians at # 39; They have called a public health crisis.

Some online gaming and console manufacturers have advised players to play them excessively. YouTube has created a time tracking tool to push viewers to take breaks from their screens as part of their parent company of Google's "digital well-being" initiative.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said that Internet addiction is the subject of "intensive investigation" and consideration for the future classification. The American Psychiatric Association has labeled gaming disorder as a "condition for further study".

"Whether it's classified or not, people come up with these problems," Tuell said.

Tuell reminded a person whose addiction was so severe that the patient would defecate himself and did not leave his electronics to use the bathroom.

Research on Internet addiction may soon produce empirical results to meet medical classification standards, Tuell said, since psychologists have found brain-adjuvant testing in teens who compulsively play games and use Internet.

"It's not a choice, it's a real disorder and an illness," Danny said. "People who joke are not serious enough to be super official, it hurts me."

Posted in Daily Times, January 28th 2019.

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