MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More than 75% of children and teens play video games, after a recent survey found most played even more during the pandemic. But a local drug addiction group is warning players not to get carried away.
At Anoka High School, it’s game time. Some juniors and seniors are part of the “Anime and Gaming Club”.
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“You can meet people who like to play video games,” said Alex Purinton, senior. “We have 60 to 70 students here at Anoka High School. “
“People are playing ‘League of Legends’. One coin is for “Dungeons and Dragons”. There are people who love ‘Minecraft’ and also card games like ‘Magic The Gathering’ or ‘Smash Bros’, ”said junior Ben Miller.
The club has been promoted as a healthy way to play while understanding that screen breaks are necessary. It has become a problem for many of these players during distance learning.
“I played a lot. I’ll go out and run a mile, it takes me 10 minutes, or maybe I’ll walk for an hour or just jog, ”said junior Dylan Bartley.
“I will say I need to take a break. I’m going to sleep, I’m going to cook because I love to cook a lot, ”Miller said.
That’s what Zach Hansen wants to hear. He is a professor at the Hazelden Graduate School and specializes in drug addiction.
“The criteria for gambling use disorder is really modeled on substance use disorder and gambling disorder,” said Hansen.
Hansen worries that there haven’t been enough studies to show the true impact of problem gambling, especially when we were locked up and students were constantly in front of computers.
“Are they withdrawing from relationships? Are they withdrawing from school activities, ”Hanzen said. “Aren’t they doing other activities that they found enjoyable? “
These are questions that “Jack” asked himself.
“I had to quit this game seven to nine times,” Jack said.
He is part of On-line Gamers Anonymous, a therapy group for people who find they need help. Years ago he became addicted to a video game called “Everquest”. He was stressed out and needed short-term gratification. Because the game didn’t have a real ending and you could keep playing, Jack became obsessed.
“I would usually play 8pm on weekends sometimes, then another two to four hours a night. You were talking 40 hours a week. Basically another job, ”Jack said.
It affected his sleep, his job, and his relationship with his wife – which ultimately ended. To overcome addiction, he joined the group founded by Liz Whoolly, who has her own tragic experience.
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“The game sucked him so much that he left everything in his real life and became addicted to the game,” said Woolley.
She said she saw her son Shawn become obsessed with role-playing. She said he even stopped taking medication for ADD and epilepsy.
“The pros also said, ‘Well he just likes to play, let him play, that’s the only thing he likes to do.’ I said, ‘Well, this is crazy. It’s like telling an alcoholic if you just love to drink, keep drinking because it’s the only thing you love to do, ”Woolley said.
Woolley said Shawn’s removal ultimately played a role in his suicide. She used her grief to write books on warning signs and to establish anonymous online gamblers. The group meets twice a week and provides resources to families.
“Once you cross that line, you have a problem. We use a lot of AA materials and we just replace the game. It works. It’s the same thing. It’s like, oh wow. I can not believe it. The drug doesn’t matter, ”Woolley said.
Like Woolley, Hansen is happy that the World Health Organization now recognizes gambling disorder as a stand-alone diagnosis.
But in the United States, it is seen as an additional area of research that likely plays a role in the lack of resources for therapy and treatment.
“It’s not yet an official diagnosis, and the implications are that access to treatment and treatment funding is not as much as substance use disorders or their mental health disorder,” said Hansen.
In the meantime, Hansen recommends that parents make screen time rules with kids and make sure they have other activities they enjoy.
A digital detox could mean stepping away temporarily or limiting play time to a few hours per week.
“It’s not just ‘I’m doing this to be mean, I’m doing this to punish you.’ It’s if you play too many video games that it can happen, you’re not going to develop skills in sports for example, or if you play an instrument, ”Woolley said.
If they recognize a problem, he said parents should talk to their children outside of play, go for a drive or eat out. High school clubs that promote healthy gambling can also help.
“Help them recognize that this is a serious problem and that your life can be so much better,” Hansen said.
Hansen said about 4% of teens who play video games develop an unhealthy addiction.
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