Individuals in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction tend to be vulnerable to developing other compulsive behaviors that might become problematic. Gambling, for example, is now included as an addictive disorder (it used to be called pathological gambling and was not included as an addiction) in the new American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, along with alcohol and other drug use disorders. Addiction to activities on the internet such as games, porn, and social media, has not been recognized by the DSM-5 as a true addiction. However, regardless of whether there exists sufficient hard scientific evidence to support creation of a formal addictive disorder, individuals can, and do, develop problematic behaviors around use of the internet that can interfere with their lives in significant ways. My favorite rule of thumb for figuring out if a behavior needs to be addressed (treated) is this: does your use (for ex.., of the internet) cause a pattern of adverse consequences in significant life areas (relationships, job, legally, health) and do you continue to do the behavior anyway? In other words, use in the face of adverse consequences is a sound measure of whether a behavior is problematic or not. In any event, there seems to be enough of a problem to support a residential treatment program for internet addiction, called ReStart. Here is a sample of the program's literature:

"ReSTART has taken an innovative whole person approach to treatment, combining the best of research-based techniques (like CBT and ACT), animal-facilitated therapy, wilderness adventure, traditional 12-steps, and the intimacy of a family-style, cooperative living environment. The 45-day period allows for staff to carefully assess and begin addressing underlying issues, co-morbid conditions, and skill deficits. By limiting access to digital technology for 45 days, the brain begins the process of “detoxing” which stimulates a return to healthier functioning. During this time, participants develop a recovery plan designed to allow the person to engage in moderate, healthy computer use after the program. Many who come to ReSTART have stayed longer than 45 days to solidify their new habits, increasing their chances of remaining addiction-free once they leave."

Research shows that gambling highs result in activation of the same areas of the brain and production of dopamine, a feel good chemical, as occurs when using drugs such as cocaine; the same process undoubtedly occurs with highs from any behavior with a reward attached to it. So, to all you recovering individuals out there, bear in mind that we tend to be attracted to any behavior that feels good, and exercise caution by using the adverse consequences measure specified in this post to see if you are getting into trouble. As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, 06/11/2013.


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