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Internet addiction 'brain changes'

12th January 2012

New research has found that internet users are suffering from an addiction similar to alcoholics and drug addicts.

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The findings have revealed that internet users who become dependent on being online have showed signs of changes in the brain similar to people with a drink problem, or cocaine addiction.

Scientists compared brain scans of young people with “internet addiction disorder” with their peers and found damage to the white matter fibres connecting emotional processing, attention and decision making parts, similar to impairments found in research into other addictions including alcohol and cocaine.

The findings, published in the Public Library of Science One journal, say that white matter integrity "may serve as a potential new treatment target in internet addiction disorder".

Some 10% of internet users are now believed to be so absorbed in the worldwide web that they are addicted to it.

Henrietta Bowden Jones, consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College, London, runs Britain’s only NHS clinic for internet addicts.

She said the majority of people with serious internet addiction are those who spend hours in roles in various games.

“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,” she added.

However, she stressed that a general trend of increasing internet use was not the same as addiction and was more because modern life requires people to link up over the internet in regard to jobs and for professional and social connections.

 

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