Teenagers addicted to gaming are travelling to private clinics overseas for treatment due to a lack of services in England and Wales to tackle the growing problem, the Guardian has learned.
There are no NHS facilities to treat gaming addiction, which was listed and defined as a condition in the 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases. It means people are having to seek treatment privately or travel abroad.
Yes We Can, Europe’s sole children-only rehabilitation clinic for gaming addiction, says it has been treating an increasing number of young people from Britain.
The Dutch clinic treated 30 people for gaming addiction in 2016 and 90 in 2018. So far this year 55 young people have sought help with the problem, including six from the UK.
Jan Willem Poot, 40, a former addict turned entrepreneur who set up the clinic, said it was seeing a 20-30% annual increase in people – mainly young men – coming in with gaming dependency. “Also, in the beginning it was eight to 10 hours of playing but at this moment we have got kids who game 18-19 hours a day. They sometimes go weeks without showers and are not eating.”
He said the problems were arising because games were being made more complex than in the past. “Gaming has been there for over 20 years but people never had problems with Tetris addiction or dependency to Super Mario,” he said.
Private clinics in the UK have also noted a surge in the numbers seeking treatment. The UK Addiction Treatment Centres (Ukat), which runs seven facilities in England, reported a 37% rise in the number of patients being admitted for gaming addiction between 2017 and 2018. This year its centres were admitting on average two patients a month. It said more than half of those admitted in 2018 were aged 30 or under.