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Are there similarities between video games addiction and substance abuse?

07-25 | By CSAA Team

Are there similarities between video games addiction and substance abuse?

Substance abuse is a common problem among teenagers. Lately, a lot of American teens are getting hooked on abusive substances owing to factors, such as wide exposure, peer pressure and easy availability of drugs. Reportedly, there has been a downward shift in the minimum age of developing addiction among American teens.

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by persistent changes in the brain’s structure and function due to excessive intake of a substance. As a result, the person experiences a compulsive urge for drugs that leads to dysfunctional behavioral changes. However, addiction is not limited to substances like illicit drugs and alcohol; instead, it also refers to addictive behavior associated with problem gambling, video games, social media, and so on. In fact, the addiction to video games has been recognized as internet gaming disorder by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The affinity and craze for video games in not new. According to neurological evidence, video games may act somewhat similar to the conventional substances of abuse.

Symptoms of substance abuse and video games addiction are quite similar

Once emerged as a potential health threat for teenagers, video game addiction is now medically recognized as a mental health issue. A 2011 study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry suggested that the brain activity responsible for controlling the urges to play video game is similar to those controlling substance abuse issues.

An uninterrupted use of internet, which interferes with daily life, is referred to as internet addiction disorder. People afflicted with the disorder exhibit symptoms that are similar to substance use disorder characterized by compulsive urges that are difficult to control and require treatment. When it comes to video games addiction, people suffer from distress and functional impairment in five domains such as academic, social, occupational, developmental and behavioral, observed the study.

Similarly, another study published in Addictive Behavior in 2015 suggested that internet gaming disorder and alcohol dependence share clinical characteristics comprising excessive cravings and over-engagement in spite of adverse outcomes. However, the study also observed that “other functional changes in the brains of people with alcoholism differ in important ways from the functional changes in the brains of people apparently impacted by dysfunctional internet gaming involvement.”

Although it is still unknown whether video games have the potential to cause real addiction, studies are underway to understand the probability of video games to be classified as a mental disorder. However, it cannot be denied that video games offer a vivid alternative reality to youngsters, which, in turn, affects their developing brains causing permanent damage.

Road to recovery

Addiction is a serious disease that not only affects the physical health but also leads to mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, among others. Therefore, irrespective of the type of addiction, it is very important to get it treated at the right time. Addiction treatment generally comprises steps such as diagnosis, biopsychosocial assessment, detoxification, medication, experiential therapies and recovery management. An early treatment can lead to sooner and healthy recovery.

Drug use, which often begins with a feeling of an emotional high, can become a dangerous addiction with time. Apart from the emotional support that loved ones can provide, professional assistance is highly recommended. If you or your loved one is struggling with any kind of addiction, you can contact the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors by calling at 866-300-5857 to avail the best substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado. You can also chat online with our medical advisers to access information about the best substance abuse treatment programs in Colorado.


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