The first “internet addiction center” in the U.S. has been opened, promising to treat people with World of Warcraft or text messaging hangups for just under $15,000 a head.
The reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program offers a 45-day treatment program “designed specifically to help internet and video game addicts overcome their dependence on gaming, gambling, chatting, texting and other aspects of internet addiction.” The center claims that 6-10 percent of internet users are “dependent on one or more aspects of cyber-technology,” but adds that rates of addiction among MMOG players appear to run much higher.
The site was founded by Dr. Hilarie Cash, author of Video Games & Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control, and Cosette Dawna Rae, a psychotherapist, stress management therapist and personal life coach, in part as a result of the slowness of the United States to recognize the dangers of internet addiction. By contrast, the center notes that both China and South Korea have designated internet addiction as their “number one public health danger.”
Patients at the reStart program will be given “individual and group therapy, life-skills coaching, cooperative living, physical and nutritional education, mindfulness training, work and home-maintenance skill-building, 12-step meetings, and weekly, off-site, high-adventure expeditions.” The treatment program costs $14,500 per person, and isn’t currently covered by any insurance company.
I would strongly urge you to give it a very close look before you open your checkbook, however. For an expensive and professional treatment program, reStart has a rather amateurish feel to it. For one thing, the website’s header promises “Treatment for Internet, Gaming, Texting and Video Game Abuse,” which while perhaps only a minor editing oversight (unless I somehow missed a recent outbreak of virulent tabletop action) still isn’t the sort of thing you want to see from a business that’s going to relieve you of nearly 15 large.
There’s also the “evidence” provided by the site to support its position, which includes clips from cable news broadcasts and brief documentary-style videos spouting random-sounding statistics (one claims that “up to 40 percent of North America’s ten million gamers are addicted”) alongside less scientifically sound data including a “You Know You Are Addicted to Runescape When…” list taken from a gaming forum and a story about the two guys who racked up a $26,000 bill while trying to set the world record for text messaging.
Call me crazy if you will – I do spend a lot of time playing videogames, after all – but if I’m going to drop that kind of money on what they purport to be a real problem, I expect more.