Brits Receive Government Funded Internet Addiction Treatment

By Victoria Kim 10/14/15

But some feel it's a waste of money for the already cash-strapped NHS.

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The National Health Service is now treating patients for Internet addiction across the United Kingdom. Based on the idea that an addiction to gaming, online porn, and online shopping can be just as damaging as alcohol, drugs and gambling, proponents say addressing the problem now will save money in the long run.

“Compulsive gaming, watching porn and shopping can be akin to drinking, drug-taking or gambling,” said author and psychotherapist, Lucy Beresford.

For people with addictive personalities, the Internet world can become more important than the real world. Similar to alcohol and drug abuse, people can lose control of their Internet activity.

“The key thing is that people recognize they have a problem and seek help. If their other relationships have cratered or suffered in any way, that’s often the first sign. It’s certainly become a generational thing. People have far more access to these sort of games now,” said Beresford.

Some people use the web to escape from deeper personal issues, she added: “In most cases gaming is harmless, but some people do it to self-soothe difficult moods or cope with situations and this can end up damaging lives.”

But critics say treating Internet addiction is not a wise use of government funds, since the NHS is faced with a billion pound deficit and the health service is struggling to meet the growing demand for care.

Proponents of Internet addiction treatment counter that addressing the problem now will save the government money in the long run. According to past research, the side effects of too much time online include a weakened immune system and greater vulnerability to disease, greater sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and less exercise.

“It seems reasonable to fund interventions to help people overcome addictions to computer games, gambling and some other compulsive or addictive behavior which can lead to anti-social behavior, social exclusion and even serious mental health problems later,” said Grahame Morris, who has served on the Health Select Committee. “If government doesn’t fund these types of initiatives, it is a false economy. It puts more pressure on hospitals and public services in the long run and costs taxpayers more.”

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