Excessive Gaming Similar to Teen Drug Addiction: Can Rewire Young Brains

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Teen drug addiction has been found to be similar to excessive gaming.  It might sound crazy, but there is new evidence that gaming can rewire a young brain similar to drugs or alcohol.  While this may fuel a parent’s existing argument that their teen spends too much time playing video games and not enough time with the family, the research is clear that excessive gaming can be addictive and detrimental to a teen’s health and development.

Excessive Gaming Rewires Young Brains

The argument for less video game time among teens and young adults continues to be supported as new research published in the latest issue of Neurology Now journal, revealed that excessive video gaming by individuals younger than 21-22 years of age can physically rewire their brains.  While cautions against excessive gaming have existed for years, many teens are unaware of the long-term risks associated with excessive gaming. Emotions, behaviors and motor skills can end up being underdeveloped as a result of excessive video game playing at young ages.

Similar to teen drug addiction, excessive gaming puts the brain’s focus only on movement and vision so these other pertinent aspects of brain functions are neglected and thus are unable to develop to their full potentials.

Excessive Gaming Functioning Like Teen Drug Addiction

While teen drug addiction can rewire the brains of young users, there are even more similarities than we previously thought between teen drug addiction and excessive gaming. Gaming, even video gaming, is able to release dopamine, a feel good chemical in the brain, much like drugs. The release of dopamine is quite powerful and may be compared to an injection of a stimulant such as amphetamine. This can be one of the factors leading to why so many youth have addictions to playing video games or have tendencies to play video games for excessive stretches of time on a regular basis. Some adults experience this same “high” while gambling.

Seeking Help for Excessive Gaming or Teen Drug Addiction

There are great options for help if your teen has an addiction to video game playing or an addiction to drugs. The main treatment method for teen drug addiction is also appropriate for gaming addictions – psychotherapy. Psychotherapy will help your teen uncover their personal reasons behind why they have an addiction which will give them clear insights into themselves. Understanding the root causes of addiction is necessary to build a strong defense and fight against addiction. Psychotherapy sessions are conducted as family therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, one-on-one sessions and cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be especially helpful for both gaming addictions and teen drug addiction as it works on using thoughts to impact behavior. Family therapy is also very important to break the cycle of enabling and to work on crucial family dynamics.

Addiction is a serious matter for adults and youth alike. However, the lasting physical consequences to the underdeveloped minds and bodies of young people dealing with addiction make it even more urgent to turn things around as soon as possible.