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Study: Getting Offline Is Like Coming Down off Ecstasy

A new study finds web addicts and drug addicts experience similar withdrawal symptoms.

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By Ben Feuerherd

02/20/13

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Internet addicts who go cold turkey face a "comedown" similar to that experienced by drug users in withdrawal, a new study finds. Researchers at Milan and Swansea Universities examined the internet use and subsequent mood changes and anxiety levels of 60 participants, average age 25. They found that those who got offline after periods of heavy internet use reported a negative mood change, possibly prompting them to get back online to remove these negative feelings. Professor Phil Reed of Swansea University's College of Human and Health Sciences compares this experience to people withdrawing from illegal drugs, like ecstasy. “Although we do not know exactly what Internet addiction is, our results show that around half of the young people we studied spend so much time on the net that it has negative consequences for the rest of their lives," says Reed. Internet addiction is not currently recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the US (although it is now official in the UK), but Reed says that could soon change. “What the American Psychiatric Association have done is flag it up as a potential problem that requires further investigation," he tells Time. "That’s the first step in it becoming a true disorder in its own right.”

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