Washington, Sept 9 : Move over drugs, smoking and even gambling, for a new compulsion has hit today's youth - Internet addiction.
The new finding will make mental health professionals face a new affliction, besides compulsive gambling or even the 'age-old' smoking and drug addiction.
Louise Nadeau, from Universite de Montreal's Department of Psychology, is now investigating this newly found compulsive affliction, in which large number of people are continuously hooked on to the Internet for hours.
"The problem isn't widespread but we know of serious cases in which teenagers don't leave the house, don't have interpersonal relationships, and have been isolated in front of their computer screen for the past two or three years, and only speak in the language of the characters they play with in network video games," said Louise Nadeau, a professor at the Universite de Montreal's Department of Psychology.
He added: "In a few years we'll have couples in therapy because the Internet will have become their main occupation."
Nadeau is director of the new university institute on addiction that conducts epidemiological studies on addiction, evaluate the services available to patients, guarantee state-of-the-art practices, and document new forms of addiction.
There is no lack of data on compulsive gambling and alcoholism. But there is a vacuum when it comes to Internet addiction. There is no reliable study or clinical data on the issue. We are starting from scratch," said Nadeau.
In a survey conducted in the Quebec health network, it was deduced that hundreds of patients have consulted a professional about this issue.
Now the scientists are hoping to further develop this data and determine the clinical threshold of addiction, establish how the disease evolves and elaborate intervention techniques.
In order to better communicate their findings, the institute will use a knowledge broker.
"It's like a journalist for a research team but the public is made up of clinicians. The broker must communicate the data in accessible terms and make sure it is targeted to the needs of practitioners," explained Nadeau.