Jessica: When you think of addiction, you probably think drugs or alcohol. But there is a new addiction showing up in young people all across the country. And it is an addiction to something a lot of you probably do every day.
Eighteen -year-old Javed Bartlett, a talented, athletic…
Javed Bartlett: I want to become something big.
Jessica: …and ambitious young man. A teen you would never think was so caught up in the world of internet video gaming that his virtual world became his real world.
Javed: Yeah. It was definitely a new world. I felt like I was in that world. It was an escape from all my problems. You could be someone completely different. Could be the best in this imaginary computerized world away from all my problems.
Jessica: Javed’s game of choice? Rift.
Javed: At my peak, it was 14-hours a day. My body clock was completely messed up. I ate really bad food. I couldn’t control myself. I was addicted. I was studying physics.
Jessica: Then there is 22-year-old Andrew, who asked not to be identified. Andrew actually had to drop out of college because Star Craft and World of Warcraft became more important than class.
Andrew: The point it really became a problem was my sophomore year in college. I had no schedule at all. I’d miss a class because I stayed up to late. Then it got to the point where I’d miss so many classes I’d be so behind in school work. Then I’d feel depressed that I was behind in school work. I felt afraid to go into professors and ask for help.
Dr. Cash: It lights up the same pleasure pathways in the brain that light up when people are taking drugs and alcohol.
Jessica: Dr. Cash is one of the founders of The Restart Program, the only known full-time recovery program in the country for internet video gaming.
Is gaming a real addiction?
Dr. Cash: Gaming is a real addiction.
Jessica: Cosette Rae is the other founder.
Cosette Rae: It’s free, legal, assessible and accepted by your peers. You name the other drugs that have that same kind of potential.
Jessica: Restart takes the clients far away from city life and the high tech world. It is located off the beaten path in the back woods of Washington state.
“After about three weeks here, the brain is starting to normalize.”
Jessica: It is now where Javed and Andrew call home. Their gaming addiction got so bad, their parents sent them here.
“I think the biggest step is definitely realizing you have a problem.”
“I don’t want to be living this life in 10 to 15 years.”
“If it was that simple, we wouldn’t even be here at Restart. Here at Restart, we believe there can also be a lot of underlying issues at play.”
Jessica: Those staying here have no access to the internet or video games. They cook their own meals and have a daily routine that includes.
“Inhale…two, three, four…pause to three, four.”
“Exercise is an important part of emotional regulation.”
Jessica: Individual counseling and other activities.
“We are trying to give them other experiences that will be life-promoting when they leave here.”
“I started gaming when I was five.”
Jessica: For Javed, the breaking point was when he finally stepped back and took a look at where his life was heading, and he is hoping that Restart will help him take back his life.
Javed: It’s helped me to be more confident. I don’t feel the urge to play the games anymore. I look forward to living a lot happier.