Should we try to treat internet addiction?

A British psychologist has questioned claims that medical treatment can be "very effective" for people who are addicted to the internet.

The claim was made by a neurologist at Gongju National Hospital Dr Lee Jae-won, who said it is useful in cases where the brain has ceased functioning effectively.

The centre has begun offering brain scans in a bid to see how people could recover from the disorder, which is a major issue in South Korea but carries a certain level of stigma, reports BBC News.

Teenager Jong-soo is one of the first people to undergo the test by Dr Lee, who said the results appeared to be similar to those who have ADHD or have other forms of addiction.

Jong-soo explained the "fun" of gaming online is what has led to him becoming addicted to spending time on the internet.

He said: "When I play, I get immersed so much that it's hard to distinguish the cyber world and the real world, sometimes it's just hard to adapt to the real world."

Dr Lee previously told AFP parents often have difficulty admitting their kids are addicted to the internet.  

Professor Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University and author of numerous studies of online addictions, said: “Dr Lee Jae-won’s claims that medical intervention is effective in the treatment of internet addiction are somewhat premature given that there is no detail of his methods and he hasn’t yet published his findings in a peer reviewed refereed journal.”

Along with some Australian colleagues at the University of Adelaide, Professor Griffiths has just published a systematic review of all published studies on the treatment of internet addiction. Professor Griffiths said: "Almost all peer reviewed studies we reviewed highlighted several key limitations, including inconsistencies in the definition and diagnosis of internet addiction, a lack of randomisation and blinding techniques, a lack of adequate controls or other comparison groups and insufficient information concerning recruitment dates, sample characteristics and treatment effect sizes."

Professor Griffiths also noted most "internet addictions" weren’t really people addicted to the internet, but were far more likely to be people who had addictions on the internet (such as online gaming, gambling and sex addictions) rather than addictions to the internet itself.

He added: "From a treatment perspective, it is better to treat the focus of the addiction rather than the medium in which the behaviour occurs."

Professor Griffiths and his colleagues have recently published a review of treatments for internet addiction. You can find it at:

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H., Griffiths, M.D. & Gradisar, M. (2011). Assessing clinical trials of Internet addiction treatment: A systematic review and CONSORT evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.06.009 - http://ijjkk.com/science/article/pii/S0272735811001085
 

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