Researchers found for the first time brain that changes in Internet-addicted people are similar to addicts of alcohol, marijuana and even cocaine.
The question as you read this article is: Are you one of the addicted?
Scientists scanned the brains of 17 Internet-addicted adolescents and found compared with controls, their addicted brains had changes in the white matter of the brain that is involved in attention, decision making, cognition and emotions.
The research could help develop treatments of Internet addiction that affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of Internet users.
The findings suggest that white matter integrity may serve as a potential new treatment target in internet addiction disorder, the authors conclude in their study. The online journal Public Library of Science One published the research Wednesday.
The research was headed by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Internet addiction comes in many different forms: news grazers, Facebook updaters and the most common, gamers.
The majority of people we see with serious internet addiction are gamers - people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations, Henrietta Bowden Jones, consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College, London, told The Independent. I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game.
Unlike illicit drugs, the Internet is part of our culture, so it may be difficult for people to recognize their addiction.
We are doing it because modern life requires us to link up over the net in regard to jobs, professional and social connections - but not in an obsessive way. When someone comes to you and says they did not sleep last night because they spent 14 hours playing games, and it was the same the previous night, and they tried to stop but they couldn't - you know they have a problem. It does tend to be the gaming that catches people out.
The research has far to go before it becomes translated into a therapy
The limitations [of this study] are that it is not controlled, and it's possible that illicit drugs, alcohol or other caffeine-based stimulants might account for the changes,
Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia, told The Independent. The specificity of 'internet addiction disorder' is also questionable.
Extreme cases often make headlines and many Internet users took to forums to post their criticism of the study, namely that it included only 17 subjects and that China funded the research, a country well-known for its anti-Internet stance.
Regardless, the study highlighted a disorder and several tests give people the chance not only to learn more about Internet addiction, but to begin to understand if they have the disorder.
One of the most relied upon tests for Internet addiction comes from Net Addiction that offers a 20-item questionnaire developed by Kimberly Young, an expert on Internet addiction who offers a digital detox program as well as a specialized program called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy techniques for Internet Addictions.
To compound the issue, Greek researchers found that Internet addiction predicted drug use in adolescents, which could mean that Internet addicts are more prone to addictions, regardless of what type.