Cam Adair finally realized that his video game addiction was out of control when it made him think about ending his life.
“I’ve been struggling with it for 10 years,” he says. “I dropped out of high school, never went to college, and pretended I had a job to fool my family.
“I finally wrote a suicide note, and it was that night that I realized I needed help. Now I am 3,860 days free of my gambling addiction.”
Mr Adair, a 32-year-old Canadian, became the founder of Game Quitters, an online support group for people struggling with gambling addiction. It now has more than 75,000 members worldwide.
While technology, and particularly the internet, helped make the world work during the coronavirus lockdowns, he says it has been difficult for people like him.
“The pandemic has resulted in me spending more time than usual watching Twitch [a live streaming service that focuses on people playing computer games]and YouTube, “says Adair.
“Much of this [YouTube] the content was also streamers and games, both of which can be strong triggers to relapse and play. Luckily I was able to stay away from a relapse, but I know many people in the Game Quitters community who unfortunately relapsed during Covid. “
The U.S. National Library of Medicine now classifies gambling addiction as part of a broader Internet addiction. He defines this as “excessive or poorly controlled concerns, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and Internet access that lead to impairment or discomfort.”
While many would argue that it is not as serious as alcoholism or drug addiction, it can still be debilitating for sufferers. And Dr. Andrew Doan, a neuroscientist and digital addiction expert, agrees that the blockages have exacerbated the problem.
“Stress in life leads to a desire for escape behaviors and mechanisms,” he says. “The pandemic has increased stress in people’s lives and a convenient way to escape is to use digital entertainment media, such as games and social media.
“Excessive use to escape stress is a risk factor for developing addictive behaviors.”
To help combat internet addiction, several tech companies have produced tools that can be used to block or restrict access to the web or gambling websites.
Linewize is one such product aimed at children or, more specifically, their parents.
The website and app allow parents and guardians to remotely limit and monitor the time that children can spend on gaming sites or on the Internet in general, via the children’s smartphone or laptop.
Linewize also contains the usual “parental locks” that prevent access to pornographic or violent material.
Teodora Pavkvic, a qualified psychologist and digital wellness expert at Linewise in San Diego, says young people are particularly susceptible to spending too much time online. This is something parents of teenagers would be quick to agree on.
“Managing time online in a digitally healthy and balanced way requires highly sophisticated cognitive skills that don’t fully develop until the age of 25.”
He adds: “Online platforms are built to extract and maximize our time, attention and data and in a way that, coupled with the many subtle dangers lurking online, makes it exceptionally difficult for children to interact with the online world in a way. measured and safe, and responsible “.
For adults, internet addiction can also be confused with gambling addiction, with betting apps and websites fueling the latter.
BetBlocker is an app that allows people to block access to tens of thousands of gambling websites and apps for a period of time determined by the user.
Once the restriction is activated, the person cannot access the gaming platforms until the restriction expires.
The BetBlocker app, which is free, can also be controlled by someone’s partner, friend or parents.
“Ease of access to remote gambling is arguably the biggest challenge anyone with a gambling addiction will face today,” says Duncan Garvie, founder of BetBlocker.
“Everyone goes around with a casino, or a bookie, in their pocket, and it’s very easy to play with discretion.”
Users can block gambling sites for hours, days or weeks. And people can also use the app to block other websites, such as gaming ones.
“This is intended to help users by creating a restriction during known periods of vulnerability,” adds Garvie, who is based in Edinburgh.
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GamBlock is another app that can be used in a similar way to prevent access to gambling websites. Australian company CEO David Warr says “we are not against gambling”. Instead, the goal is to help problem gamblers.
Dr. Doan’s experience in video game addiction partly came the hard way – he was such an addict too.
“While in medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine [in Baltimore], and during my internship I played 80 to 100 hours of video games a week, for about 10 years, “he says.
The author of a book called Hooked On Games: The Lure And Cost Of Video Games And Internet Addiction, says the Internet should be seen as two separate parts.
“I break digital media into two broad categories: digital sugar and digital vegetables. Digital vegetables, like online therapies, can be used to help people manage stress and reduce the risk of addictive behaviors.
“[Whereas] Excessive use of digital sugars such as gaming, pornography and non-work-related social media can increase the risk of addictive behaviors, particularly when these activities are used to escape everyday stressors. “
Dr Doan fears that given the amount of time we now spend online, we will see more games and internet addictions.
However, Cam Adair hopes tech companies like Linewize, BetBlocker, and GamBlock can play an important role in helping alleviate the problem. And it is important to point out that anyone who is concerned about any form of addiction should contact their doctor.
Adair’s work has been published in Psychiatry Research, and he is now an international speaker, talking about addiction.
“Asking for help saved my life,” he says. “I was deceitful, withdrawn, isolated, hostile and unattainable during my addiction. Now I am happy, content and able to cope with the stresses of normal life.”
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