BRADFORD, P.A. (WIVB) - Alcohol and drugs are often the major causes for in-patient treatment for addiction. But one hospital believes the internet is another source of addiction that requires serious treatment.
The nation's first in-patient treatment center for internet addiction is just across the state line in Bradford, PA. Though the center is new and getting national attention, treating internet addiction is not new.
Dr. Kimberly Young has been working with patients for years. Dr. Young, a psychologist and professor at St. Bonaventure, has been studying internet addiction since 1994 when the web was fairly new.
"A friend of mine's husband was addicted to AOL chatrooms when they used to send out those discs. He was spending 40, 50, 60 hours a week. And that's back when it was $2.95/hour to be online," she said.
In her private practice, Dr. Young started treating people for internet addiction. Eventually she saw the need for in-patient treatment.
"Very similar to what you'd find with alcohol and drug addiction, you'll see kind of a mixed profile if you will of someone suffering from some psychiatric illness contributing to why they're doing it," she explained.
Now she's the director of the country's first hospital-based internet addiction treatment center located at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
Internet addiction is often associated with pornography. But Dr. Young says the biggest problem she's found in her patients is young adults addicted to online video games.
"Who now have dropped out of college. Who now have no other goals except to play the game," Dr. Young said.
The 10-day treatment program consists of a "digital detox," or giving up all digital devices for 72 hours. Then therapy and seminars getting down to the root of the problem before learning how to use the internet productively rather than trying to stay away from it altogether.
"It's very much like food addiction. You're not going to abstain from food as a way of dealing with it, no more than you're going to abstain from the internet as a way of treating it. It's really about looking at it as making healthier choices for yourself online and looking at it like a digital diet if you will," Dr. Young said.
Right now there are four beds at the hospital dedicated to the internet addiction treatment program. Inquiries are coming from all over the country.
Insurance won't cover the cost of treatment because internet addiction isn't classified as a mental illness. The 10-day program costs $14,000.
And though it may seem new or strange, the U.S. is actually behind with this idea. Korea has 140 facilities for internet addiction.
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