Study: Internet Addicts Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms Like Drug Users

Obsessive internet users can undergo 'comedowns' similar to those experienced by people using ecstasy, researchers say.

  • Share
  • Read Later
REUTERS

People use computers at an Internet cafe in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province June 20, 2007.

A new study shows that when heavy Internet users go offline, they undergo withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by drug users.

The study, carried out by researchers at Swansea and Milan Universities, is the first into the immediate negative psychological impacts of Internet use.

Sixty volunteers, with an average age of 25, were first tested to determine their level of Internet use — particularly, whether they used the Internet obsessively or to the detriment of their social relationships and jobs.

(MORE: Obsessive Internet Use Linked With Depression in Teens) 

They were then were told to surf the net, visiting any sites they liked, for 15 minutes, after which they were tested for mood and levels of anxiety. The volunteers whom the earlier round of testing indicated were “addicted” to the Internet reported increased negative moods after they stopped surfing the net, suffering a “comedown” that researchers said was not unlike that experienced by people after using the drug ecstasy.

In a press release, Professor Phil Reed, who was involved in the study and is based at Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, wrote:

“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.”

“These initial results, and related studies of brain function, suggest that there are some nasty surprises lurking on the net for people’s wellbeing.”

(MORE: Does the Internet Really Make Everyone Crazy?)

A note of caution here: although there are rehab clinics that purport to deal specifically with the problem of Internet addiction, it’s not currently recognized as a psychiatric disorder. “What the American Psychiatric Association have done is flag it up as a potential problem that requires further investigation. That’s the first step in it becoming a true disorder in its own right,” Professor Reed tells TIME. However, he cautions, any of the study’s results relating to “internet addiction” could also be symptoms of other potentially addictive online activities: if someone is addicted to gambling, for example, then they might be using the Internet excessively to access gambling sites. But while Reed acknowledges that Internet addiction may be secondary, “my own view is we’re probably looking at a new disorder here.”

MORE:  Is Nothing Sacred? Opera Written About Internet Addiction

95 comments
BenjaminB
BenjaminB

All I know is that when my PC broke, no internet, no computer screen to stare slack jawed into, I began acting like a crazy person.  I mean nuts! There's definitely something going on here. And the silence is deafening. How long did it take for the American Cancer Society to confirm cigarettes were bad for us? And, how much more money is 'The Web' raking in? Not to say it's a conspiracy, but I was acting like a...I was just *very, very* uncomfortable when the computer broke. It scares me to think this thing has that much power over me, yet here I am...

ZackLynch
ZackLynch

We need to help kids get control of their internet use.  So I created an iPhone App called KidStar.
KidStar is a game time limit reward system for kids using iDevices.

Parents set a time limit and a reward, and then hand the device to their kid. When play time is up, the kids are locked out of the device until the parent enters a password. Kids get 10 stars for turning in the device early and 2 stars for using all their play time up. Stars are tracked and redeemed for real world rewards like ice cream or a trip to the zoo. No more iPad/iPhone tug of wars or tears. 

KidStar is based on the principles of positive behavioral psychology which shows that when kids are treated with respect and rewarded for acting responsibly it can powerful effects on their self-control and self-esteem, KidStar rewards are a great way to blunt the impact of bringing in time limits to play.  Check it out.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kidstar/id585813325?ls=1

brianwainstein
brianwainstein

@VictorGodinez Ugh, that explains the headaches. Dealing with 250ms ping, MAX speeds of 1mbps *twitch* #missmyuverse #ATTEmp

TracyAChambers
TracyAChambers

@ParamjitGarewal @TIMEHealthland LOL! Though, I do believe this-the internet can be a psycholocgical addiction!

shellieblum
shellieblum

@ParamjitGarewal @TIMEHealthland Oh no, another vice w/ side affects of withdrawals, write it up in the AMA!

le_feufollet
le_feufollet

I doubt they experience the withdrawal Sx of many drugs. RT @AliceProverbio Internet Addicts Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms Like Drug Users

mattmarshall
mattmarshall

@TIME test reply from pocket app on mac….

montratrimekpi1
montratrimekpi1

@TIME @TIMEHealthland @montratrimekpi1 ---good--evening----time---

MickeyCashen
MickeyCashen

I'm an Internet addict.  When my phone line was externally damaged and I could not get my DSL signal, I suffered from withdrawal until the phone company got it fixed even though I could travel to my sister's home and use her computer.  And there's such a wealth of information to keep you online: I spent yesterday finalizing my research into stocks with DRIPs that have no fees for buying and automatic purchase options (I picked XOM, CBRL, GIS, and DRE) and signing up for I-Series Savings Bonds rather than Credit Union CDs. I just paid cash for a new car and small, regular purchases in those diversified 5 will pay for my next one in a decade or so.  I thought it was about 3 pm when I was done, but it was after 8 pm.

QuivPonySwag
QuivPonySwag

@benmaller It's true, I do suffer from withdrawal

KenCheng
KenCheng

I love the Internet and use it frequently every day, but over the years, there have been at least a dozen occasions when I did not have access to it for a week or longer, and suffered no negative effects as a result.

Of course, in each of those cases, I was well prepared for it in advance.  It's different if I suddenly lose access to it when I'm in the middle of using it.  That's more distressing.

profunooosss23
profunooosss23

I don't know about you people but i'm addicted....i'm addicted to the INFORMATION that i gain from the internet and NOT the internet itself!!! They were told to surf the net, visiting ''any sites'' THEY liked, for 15 minutes they where addicted but what they want to see was not the internet itself but their favored''sites'!!!!There is a serious flaw in their experiment! What you like is always the most addicting thing than anything and when you stop gain that you feel it!My wisdom will surpass their experiment by let me tell you an example:

As they do an experiment i will do mine..bare with me....: 

I have 100 people that are close to 30 age,i bring them on a huge area and ask them to order the most Favored Food..then 20 min later my huge  10 Red Tracks came and bring the food they asked..they eat it and keep eating then i told them to stop all the Red Track from bringing any food and the 100 people where depressed and hungry for more after that!!!!So i conclude that they are addicted with my Red Tracks and NOT with their favored food!! Does that makes any sense to you??

The same is here with this experiment they don't understand why people use the internet! 

I say that people are addicted more to the information that they want to take( their favorite sites that they where told to visit/favored food) rather than what is that..that brings the information to them (computer-internet/red tracks/pink ponies) 


mjcharron
mjcharron

This is seriously depressing to read. Them poor web surfing druggies are suffering so bad.

guitarguymv
guitarguymv

Should have quit before I read this article.

ronpies
ronpies

This article uses the term "withdrawal" in a very loose sense--quite different from what addiction specialists mean when they speak, for example, of physiological "withdrawal" from barbiturates--a potentially fatal complication. For more on these issues, please see:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719452/

Ronald Pies MD

JulieMS
JulieMS


GAMING is the biggest addiction our young men are being sucked into.  It is producing a violent,lazy, unproductive generation of problems that will effect all of society.  We need to nip it in the bud, not wait for it to be an epidemic.

squeejees
squeejees

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, hey buddy, got a hot spot? I'm jones'n here - hook me up.

WOW, now people can claim Disability Insurance for their PORN habbit.  WONDERFUL

AndrewDouglass
AndrewDouglass

you can be addicted to anything, the key to life and the universe is moderation.

nycmike123
nycmike123

I am sure before computers there were "addicts" to books.

nycmike123
nycmike123

Would this not be the same for an individual who has found a particular attribute to be rewarding, and pursue it further. Like a person who loves politics and grows up to be president, simply based on "addiction" for more knowledge  in that trait?  

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

I am an addict but I am not destructive.

Briffault
Briffault

.....probably one of the more offensive claims around. Internet addicts and those addicted to substances of abuse are WORLD'S apart. It's kind of like saying celebrities suffer the same problems as the "working class". What a waste of resources.

AtheisticallyYours
AtheisticallyYours

Oh please! The idea that a person goes through "Internet withdrawal", and shakes, shivers, and soils themself as withdrawl from alcohol, opiates, or ACTUAL DRUGS DOES CAUSE IS RIDICULOUS! 

US1776
US1776

No internet is like losing a part of your brain.

You go crazy.


.

CarmenLuna
CarmenLuna

That's all we need!! Another reason for people to file for disability!! Geez people quit inventing this BS. I suppose since I come to work everyday, I'm a addicted to work!

BryanBorochaner
BryanBorochaner

This is common sense. ANYTHING CAN BE ADDICTIVE. If you ate a bag of Oreos every day for six months, and then stopped eating Oreos, you'd feel like awful too.

MarcusWCollins
MarcusWCollins

Just stop! Stop trying to label everyone as damaged. These people are not addicted and do not withdrawal.

diabeeeetus
diabeeeetus

@TIME @timehealthland I get those shakes when I run out of cocaine to snort so I just start shoving baggies in there with nothing in them

Anaroblesg
Anaroblesg

@TapasDeCiencia @timehealthland Es una adicción igual que todas..

WellLubricated
WellLubricated

@BenjaminB I totally understand. In addition, I think caffeine and computers work synergistically to <i>light up</i> that manic center of the brain. Have you read Nicholas Carr's <i>'The Shallows'?</i> Or, googled: Internet Brain Shrink?


<b>"Scientists have found that compulsive internet use can produce morphological changes in the structure of the brain.[28] A study which analyzed Chinese college students who had been classified as computer addicts by the study designers and who used a computer around 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, found reductions in the sizes of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum compared to students deemed "not addicted" by the designers.[28]"</b>

VictorGodinez
VictorGodinez

@brianwainstein Going cold turkey is never recommended.

I_Have_Crohns
I_Have_Crohns

in reply to what profunooosss23 said.  It's right on point

I_Have_Crohns
I_Have_Crohns

@profunooosss23 It's the area of interest that people get addicted to.  The internet is just the tool used to access the information. 

ShaneMeeker
ShaneMeeker

@JulieMS Women don't play games? The games that they play are with mens heads and pocketbooks.