Internet addiction disorder is a controversial psychiatric label placed on people who spend a lot of time in a variety of internet activities. These have included visiting gambling and pornography websites, spending too much time playing online games or constantly using social media to stay in touch with friends and colleagues.
The latest group to get the attention of psychiatrist as potential victims of internet addiction is babies and toddlers. These little ones given smartphones and IPads to play with have gotten “distressed and inconsolable” when the parents removed the gadget from their hands.
A Dr. Richard Graham in the UK was the first to launch a treatment program there for technology addiction.
He stated that these toddlers were experiencing the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts, when the devices were taken away.
Parents who are not in good enough communication with their children to control these devices and prevent tantrums have paid as much as £16,000 for a 28-day “digital detox” programme” created by Dr Graham at the Capio Nightingale clinic in London.
Targeting toddlers for so-called internet addictionisa logical jump for psychiatrists looking for new territory, as they have already been treating college, high school and grade school youth for such “addiction”.
To date Internet addiction disorder has not being recognized as an official mental condition by The American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM version V coming out in May reportedly will be listing it in Section III as needing “further research.”
Allen Frances, M.D., who served on the board who wrote DSMIV, is a frequent critic of DSMV. He writes in his article “Internet Addiction – The Next New Fad Diagnosis”
“Granted that lots of us are furtively checking emails in movie theaters and in the middle of the night, feel lost when temporarily separated from our electronic friends, and spend every spare minute surfing, texting or playing games. But does this really qualify us as addicts?
No, not usually. Not unless our attachment is compulsive and without reward or utility; interferes with participation and success in real life; and causes significant distress or impairment. For most people, the tie to the internet, however powerful and consuming, brings much more pleasure or productivity than pain and impairment. This is more love affair and/or tool using than enslavement- and is not best considered the stuff of mental disorder. It would be silly to define as psychiatric illness behavior that has now become so much a necessary part of everyone’s daily life and work.”
Regardless of its status, various psychiatrists have created and used oddball treatments with devastating effects on young people.
In the USA study conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City that ran from December of 2002 to October of 2004 “has established that Escitalopram (Lexapro is one drug therapy for treating problematic Internet use.”
Lexipro is an SRRI psychiatric drug used to treat depression. It has known side effects of Suicide Risk, Suicide Attempts, Suicide, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and aggressive behavior.
In South Korea they take internet addiction very seriously. The government provides counseling programs and psychological treatment for an estimated 2 million people who cannot wean themselves from playing online computer games. Lee Hae-kook, a psychiatry professor at Catholic University of Korea, College of Medicine is proud that Asia is leading the world in researching this “addiction”.
In China psychiatrists have gone back to the days of Mao Tse-tung to model their treatments for Internet Addiction. City kids are sent to rural boarding camps to be treated.
Tao Ran, created and still directs the country’s first Internet addiction treatment clinic in a military hospital in Beijing; his clinic has treated about 5,000 Internet addicts since 2004.
He has co-authored papers suggesting psychiatric drug therapy for such youth.
There are now 300 centers in China for treating internet addiction. Parents pay thousands of dollars to send their children to these military style boot camps.
A summer camp in rural Sichuan province promises cures for internet addiction. In 2009 a youth, Pu Liang, was hospitalized in critical condition with broken ribs, kidney damage and internal bleeding. Police removed him from the camp after he told his parents he had been beaten by a counselor when he was unable to complete a rigorous regimen of push-ups.
At another internet addiction facility, the BeitengSchool in Changsha, 16 year old Chen Shi was beaten to death – this school uses a plastic pipe, a wooden baton, and handcuffs.
In another case, a 15 year old teen named Deng Senshan was beaten to death at a similar boot camp in Nanning, Guangxi province. He was admitted for Internet Addiction and had been at the camp less than 48 hours when he died. This camp was closed with 13 staff arrested.
When asked about this death, Tao Ran told The Associated Press that such deaths are bound to happen because few camps employ scientific methods, with most opting for crude military-style discipline.
Apparently some camps do use the pinnacle of psychiatric “scientific methods” – electric shock treatments.
The Chinese Ministry of Health finally ordered a hospital in Shandong province to stop electric shock treatments, which it had reported using on 3,000 youths. It stated this treatment needed “further study”.
Americans would be wise to heed the mistakes of Asia and not allow the labeling of normal behavior and personal interests as addictions. The “Internet addiction disorder” label could easily follow this route to treatment with psychiatric drugs or electric shocks.