Twelve-year-olds to be among first patients at NHS gaming addiction centre

Children as young as 12 will be among patients at the first NHS-funded gaming addiction centre when it starts work in September.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 8:51 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 8:53 am

A group of youngsters picked for the trial are so addicted to games it has kept them off school and harmed their relationships with family and friends.

Researchers aim to create a model for diagnosing and treating gaming disorders among children and young people that can be rolled out across the UK.

Experts at the Central and North West London NHS trust are hoping to recruit 15 patients and around half, aged 12 to 20, have been identified so far.

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Clinic founder Henrietta Bowden-Jones, an eminent addiction psychiatrist, told the Daily Telegraph the patients will be assessed to increase understanding of the disorders.

“We’ll record in depth everything we can in order to develop the largest database in the country to better understand the illness,” she said.

“They are different to gamblers or alcoholics. It’s a younger generation. As it doesn’t involve substances, the neurological processes will be different.”

Dr Bowden-Jones also proposes to develop a rating system that will help assess how addictive a game may be.

The six-point scale would help label games for their compulsiveness, propensity to violence, capacity for sleep disruption and addictive reward mechanisms.

Parents and clinicians would be able to use the system when monitoring what games children are playing.

“We will be treating people without understanding what is wrong with the products. That is why we need different categories so we can focus on those that are potentially the most harmful,” Dr Bowden-Jones said.

Gaming addiction and the amount of time children and young people spend online have come under increased scrutiny after reports of individuals becoming severely hooked on tech.

A 17-year-old boy told Tuesday’s Daily Mirror he had been left suicidal after becoming addicted to multi-platform hit Fortnite.

The teenager, called Carl, said he turned to taking amphetamines in order to stay awake and play the game.

“I just had to escape this existence, and the only way I knew how was to kill myself,” he told the paper.

His father added: “We honestly had no idea any of this was going on until the night Carl tried to kill himself.”