Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 05, 2012

The Tech Fix: The Future's Drug of Choice

Society is all too familiar with addiction. In fact, since Adam and Eve took the plunge, addiction has reared its ugly head into millions of people’s lives. While our perception of addiction often conjures up images of ill-clothed bodies with, spaced-out, unkempt faces slumped in urban street alleys, today’s picture of an addict might surprise you.

For example, in 2011 a “seemingly” innocent Vietnamese teenage boy murdered a seven-year old girl in order to fund his online gaming addiction. Shocking? While this example may seem extreme, addiction to technology, specifically video games and online gaming, is in fact real. Take former Indianapolis Colts player Quinn Pitcock. The defensive lineman retired before the start of training camp in 2008, due to a gaming addiction. His “drug of choice”- Call of Duty. Pincock spent up to 18 hours a day playing the popular game, sometimes sleeping less than five hours a night.

"I would break the games, try to get rid of them," Pincock said, "but I couldn't stop. I'd say, 'Quinn, what are you doing?' Physically, I could not put down a video game."

Whether it’s your chatty friend that can’t put down their iPhone, or even yourself searching for ways to “get your tech fix”, people’s obsession with technology not only hurts them socially, but physically as well. There’s even a name for it, dubbed Internet Addiction Disorder, or IAD.

A recent Chinese study, comparing the brain scans of Internet-addicted adolescents and non-addicted individuals, found that the scans of “addicted” teens showed large amounts of damage to white matter in the brain. Researchers stated that the amount of damage found within the brains of these teens was similar to damage found in heavy substance abusers. Similar effects have been seen in the brains of people who abuse alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamines.

While people may not be panhandling iPods or tablets on street corners, research has found that when denied access to the Internet, cell phones, or computers, Internet addicts can experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, obsessive thoughts and involuntary movements- symptoms that are similar to drug and alcohol addicts.

While it may seem implausible to most, the addiction to technology is a serious struggle for some. Blame Apple all you want folks, but the best advice I’ve been told is “everything in moderation”, and this includes technology. Put down the gaming counsel, smartphone, or tablet and have a real, meaningful experience with friends or family - it’s good for your health!

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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