Research and patient visits over the past several years have some doctors now believing that gaming addiction is a legitimate problem, leading to more teens being treated for what researchers have labeled “Internet Gaming Disorder.”

“They wake up in the middle of the night to game or they don’t go to sleep because they are gaming. They are on the internet and cellphone, they’re ditching school and they’re not doing their homework. It leads to lots of conflict at home and arguing,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, Director of Addiction Services at Denver Health.

Dr. Thurstone started fielding concerns about gaming addiction problems five years ago, when patients came in and said they could not resist being on the internet.

“What started as simple texting on cell phones years back has now evolved into multi-player games where people can play against other players around the world, across their gaming consoles, computers and phones,” KMGH reported.

Those suffering from “Internet Gaming Disorder” are advised to spend 90 days away from the devices or technology to which they are addicted. Following that period, doctors said that patients can be re-introduced to the devices they could not avoid to assess whether further treatment is needed.

Teens ages 16-17 are the most at risk for developing gaming addiction, according to Thrustone, who cited studies showing 5.5 percent of teens are challenged with using the internet too much, with males being five times more likely to develop a gaming addiction than females.

Thurstone also cited new research revealing that internet gaming can light up the center of the brain that is activated by addictive drugs.

“There’s a common pathway that lights up when people are using too much internet and using too much of a substance. You start to see there is the biological that starts to go along with what you see in front of you and you start to see that it’s probably a real thing,” Thurstone said.

Doctors recommend that parents intervene if they notice their children spending a majority of their time gaming, especially if their usage is in the 8-10 hour range.

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