Newspaper compares video game addiction to heroin addiction

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Recently, there have been heated debates over excessive video game use and the addictive nature of games. Video game addicts have been known to exhibit some of the same addictive tendencies as other addicts, including those that are drug or alcohol addicts. A recent investigative piece was published in a United Kingdom newspaper and it talks about Britain’s growing number of gaming addicts and claims that a nearby clinic received 5,000 calls related to seeking help for video game addiction and it also says that three suicides have been linked to Call of Duty.

It goes on to say that the high dopamine levels that come from playing video games can have a severe negative effect, especially on young kids that still have developing brains.  The article met some resistance by people, namely Dr. Mark Griffiths who is a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University. He believes that gaming addiction is real, but believes the article provided some incorrect information and that gaming advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. (1) 

Many individuals that struggle with gaming addiction have many of the same symptoms that drug or alcohol addicts face. They withdraw from family or friends, struggle with depression, loss of job or declining grades in school, hostility when they can’t get a “fix”, lying and other deceptive activity, and more. Drug or alcohol addiction clearly is a bit different because of the actual substance that is entering the person’s body, but excessive video game use alters the dopamine levels in the brain and neuroendocrine system just as if a substance had been injected. 

Interestingly, there is a sedative effect of certain games too. The game Snow World is used to lessen pain in burn victims, allowing nurses to change burn dressings and scrub their burns. The anesthetic properties of virtual reality gaming on the mind appear to be both from visual distraction and stimulation of endogenous pain killers. Have you seen a child sedated and mesmerized while playing video games, but only to freak out when removed from the gaming? Perhaps it's the sedative properties of gaming, similar to narcotics, that help captivate kids and reduce pain in burn patients?

Clearly, not every gamer will struggle with addiction, and many people can game on a regular basis and still live healthy, functional lives. This is similar to alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and even prescribed pain medications.  Moderation is key – the problem starts when young children become hooked on technology and gaming at very young ages. Their minds begin to crave it. If you or someone you know is struggling with gaming addiction, seek help immediately.


1. Koch, Cameron. “Video games are as bad as heroin, according to UK newspaper.” Tech Times. July 13, 2014. Accessed online July 27, 2014.