It-Tnejn, Ġunju 25, 2007

Doctors: Video Games Not an Addiction (for now)

Physicians have been debating whether video game addiction can be lumped together with other addictions such as drugs, smoking and alcoholism. The AMA's delegates are to vote on the matter later this week but the committee that made the proposal has already backed away from the idea.

As previously reported, the American Medical Association (AMA) had been looking into whether or not video games can actually be considered an addiction. However, according to a Reuters report over the weekend, doctors have now backed away from their proposal to classify video game addiction with real substance problems such as alcoholism.

At the AMA's annual meeting, addiction experts said that video game addiction affects about ten percent of players but that more study is needed before the problem could be classified as an actual mental illness.

"There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders, and it doesn't get to have the word addiction attached to it," said Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

"It's not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There may be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what they are doing," Dr. Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center told Reuters.

Still Dr. Kraus is concerned about the possible social implications of too much video game playing. "The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socializing, the less time they will have with their families, the less time they will have exercising," he said. "They can make up academic deficits, but they can't make up the social ones."

Some physicians remain convinced, however, that video game addiction and other serious addictions are very similar. "Working with this problem is no different than working with alcoholic patients. The same denial, the same rationalization, the same inability to give it up," commented Dr. Thomas Allen of the Osler Medical Center in Towson, Maryland.

While the debate rages, the AMA committee will consider the testimony and make its final recommendation to the AMA's 555 voting delegates, who are scheduled to vote later this week.

That said, the committee that made the proposal immediately backed away from its position, and instead passed the torch to the American Psychiatric Association should they wish to revise their next diagnostic manual in 2012.

by James Brightman

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