Can videogames be a gateway to substance addiction?

The gaming industry had some of its controversies in recent years, primarily after people started to get more conscious of all the violence and possibility of video games inciting violence in sensitive individuals. And while gaming industry, especially high-level poker tournaments, can lead you to the riches at the end of a rainbow, excessive video gaming on a daily basis for non-competing individuals certainly rings some alarms among professionals.

Gaming disorder is a real thing

Addiction, in general, is now globally considered a major public health problem, and as such especially focused on in America. No wonder, since the prevalence of addictions in American society seems to be seriously increasing lately. Among others, America is facing a serious substance misuse problem.

The World Health Organization have given gaming disorder a mental health classification resulting in significant impairment in all areas of functioning (personal, social, educational, occupational etc.). Excessive gaming can cause severe consequences like headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain, lack of interest in socialising, even depression, anxiety and many other physical and psychic conditions.  The human brain reacts to gaming in a similar way it reacts to addictive substances, creating this “endorphin high” effect and making individuals wanting to continue gaming.

Video games can be very influential

Numerous studies, e.g. a recent study by the University of Nottingham, showed that teenagers exposed to alcohol and tobacco use featured in video games they are frequently playing maybe influenced and encouraged to try and consume these products.

This brings another aspect of gaming into the light, namely the importance of determining the possible impact of frequent use of alcohol and tobacco featured in video games on players, in particular on teenagers and kids as the most vulnerable category of players.

Even not offered directly to the young players, only its presence and the context of being used by the characters, may suggest that feel-good feeling to the player. Also, there are substances and alcohol-alike potions boosting characters abilities,  which both builds up and suggests a connection between consuming beverages and feeling better as well as achieving better results, which is – no doubt – a huge warning signal.

Positive effects of gaming on the human brain     

The fact that video games are impactful and that an average gamer is playing approximately six hours per week may sound alarming, but there are certain aspects of playing video games which can have a positive effect on the brain. For example, video games can improve our mood, help us relax and fight anxiety and depression, even help us to recover from neurological trauma and protect us from psychological damage. A number of games are taking on mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and are used in the area of mental health as a therapy form.

Even though gaming can compromise our health, when played intelligently, which means keeping it all in perspective and keeping your gaming and your workload in balance – there is no reason to stop enjoying playing video games in your free time.


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