June 10, 2006
BY FIA CURLEY
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- An addiction center is opening Europe's first detox clinic for video game addicts, offering treatment for people who can't leave their joysticks alone.
Video games may look innocent, but they can be as addictive as gambling or drugs -- and just as hard to kick, says Keith Bakker, director of Amsterdam-based Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants.
Bakker already has treated 20 video game addicts, ages 13 to 30, since January. Some show withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking and sweating, when they look at a computer console.
His detox program will run four to eight weeks and will include therapy sessions, wilderness excursions, and possibly medication.
Research into video gaming is still in its infancy, and researchers haven't agreed on how to define addiction. But many experts say it's clear many of the young people who show dependency on video games are in trouble.
"We have kids who don't know how to communicate with people face-to-face because they've spent the last three years talking to somebody in Korea through a computer," Bakker said. "Their social network has completely disappeared."
Bakker said he has seen signs of addiction in children as young as 8.
About a dozen clinics already exist in the United States and Canada, and even one in China, as excessive gaming increasingly is being recognized worldwide as an ailment requiring treatment.
Bakker said parents of game addicts frequently echo the words of partners of cocaine addicts: " 'I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was.' " AP
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