Dependence on Internet similar to drug addiction, study says

The amount of time people regularly spend on the Internet may result in psychological effects similar to drug dependency, according to a study by the University of Maryland.

The university’s International Center for Media & the Public invited 1,000 students worldwide to go without Internet access of any kind-computers, cell phones and other internet-powered device-for 24 hours and report their reactions.

According to the study, 23 percent of American participants reported they felt anxious and distressed, with one girl saying she was “itching like a crackhead” without being connected to the Internet for even that amount of time.

“The effects [of the study] aren’t surprising,” said Dr. Richard Hudiburg, a psychology professor at UNA. “I have students in class who can’t go without touching their cell phones.”

UNA student Allison Stark admitted she spends a large amount of time per day on the Internet between her work and just using her smartphone.

“My job uses the Internet,” she said. “I’d say at least 10 hours of the day I’m online in some way.”

While she expressed no dissatisfaction with having to use the Internet for work, an activity quite common in today’s accelerated culture, she did have a problem with how she managed using the Internet in her free time.

“I feel like I need to do something more important with my time, like read a book or magazine,” she said.

Perhaps the feeling of needing to be doing something opposite has inspired the comparison between Internet use and drug addiction.

However, Dr. Hudiburg advised against throwing around the term “Internet addiction,” suggesting that it does not describe the situation accurately in psychological terms. Instead, he recommended calling this phenomenon “Internet dependency.”

“Use of the word ‘addiction’ has such a connotation that conjures up ideas of a bad habit,” he said, putting emphasis on “bad.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines addiction as “a disease process characterized by the continued use of a specific psychoactive substance despite physical, psychological or social harm.”

Simply put, if you’re not having trouble sleeping or conversing with others out of a need to surf the Web, you’re not an Internet addict and are blowing it a bit out of proportion.

You’re much more likely to be “dependent” on Internet use.

Still, withdrawal occurs in cases of dependency if the subject goes without the depended upon stimulus for too long, according to the DSM.