Forty-nine percent of Americans report playing some type of video game, and the average American spends 29 hours per month playing video games, or nearly an hour a day. While about 95 percent of those who play video games do not do so compulsively, a 2011 study showed that 4.9 percent of adolescents who played games exhibited compulsive or addictive gaming behavior and also showed an increased risk of substance abuse.
The study was done at Yale School of Medicine and found that generally, gaming was not causing harmful effects for most gamers. In fact, male gamers overall were less likely to smoke, whereas females who played video games did have more rebellious behavior like getting into fights at school.
Game Addiction and Substance Abuse
In the study, adolescents who reported having difficulty when they tried to stop playing video games or feeling like they needed to play to release stress also showed greater risk for addictive behaviors like smoking and drug use.
A different study also found that the part of the brain involved in gaming addiction is the same part that is stimulated in substance abuse, leading researchers to see a link between the two. It turns out that for those prone to video game addiction, dopamine is released in the body by playing games in a way very similar to how it is released when drugs or alcohol are used.
When game addicts try to stop playing, their dopamine levels can fall and cause them to feel stress, anxiety, and depression–feelings that they may come to believe can only be made better by playing video games again. Drug or alcohol use can compound these reactions and lead to severe withdrawal from one or both of these addictions.
Gaming addiction can also become entwined with gambling addiction when gamers begin to bet money on the outcome of games. Gambling can be another way to get the dopamine rush gamers may be looking for, and gamers may find it easy to move into gambling on the games they already play.
How to Tell if Gaming is an Addiction
Addiction is evident when people continue a behavior even when it interferes with the rest of their life, and when they are unable to stop the behavior even in the face of negative consequences and impacts.
If gaming has caused you or a loved one to lose a job or a significant relationship, such as a spouse or significant other, and you still cannot stop gaming, it may be considered an addiction. If stopping or limiting your game playing is causing you significant distress, this could also be a sign that gaming is addictive for you.
If you also use drugs or alcohol along with gaming, you may need treatment to overcome these addictive behaviors and break the hold of drugs and gaming on your life. Fortunately, there is help for gaming addiction and substance abuse.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that offers help for all kinds of addictive behaviors. Contact us for more information about how we can help with a variety of addictive behaviors that include substance abuse.