Detox Program to Treat Internet Addicts

A psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania is the first facility that will take Internet addiction so seriously that it will have a treatment program for those who cannot stop using the web. 

The inpatient program is a voluntary 10-day program that is due to start September 9 at the Bradford Regional Medical Center. Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program, said, "[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism. The Internet is free, legal, and fat free."

The program will take groups of four people, all of whom must be unable to function normally without using the Internet. They will undergo group therapy and consent to a psychological evaluation. Dr. Roger Laroche, the medical director of the department of psychiatry at Bradford Regional, explained that the people with the addiction typically have another undiagnosed psychiatric personality disorder or personality problem. The patients will each have to pay $14,000 out of pocket, as insurance will not cover the program. They will have to undergo 72 hours of life without the Internet, called a "digital detox."

The patients with the program typically have responses similar to withdrawal from marijuana when they are cut off from the Internet; some have experienced irritability, depression, and even violence.

The American Psychiatric Association released its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, or DSM-5, last May. It identified "Gaming Disorder" in Section III of the manual. This meant that the association would not formally accept the term as a disorder. The manual wrote that there was a preponderance of the disorder in Asian countries. 

Dr. Allen Frances, the chairman of the DSM-IV and professor emeritus at Duke University, heartily disagreed with the diagnosis of Internet addiction. He said, "If we can be addicted to gambling and the Internet, why not also include addictions to shopping, exercise, sex, work, golf, sunbathing, model railroading, you name it? All passionate interests are at risk for redefinition as mental disorders." 


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