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Study: Internet Use Habits In Young Adults Similar To Addiction

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File photo of a child using a computer. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

File photo of a child using a computer. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

DURHAM, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) - A recent study suggests that the compulsion experienced by young adults to use the Internet is not unlike drug addiction.

Researchers from the Duke University Medical Center and Institute of Brain Sciences teamed up with experts from the Missouri University of Science and Technology to investigate Internet use and engagement. Together, the team found that use of the Internet on computers and phones is less a matter of convenience for younger Americans and more a matter of addiction, Medical News Today learned.

A 20-question system called the Internet-Related Problem Scale was implemented to gauge the issues plaguing 69 college students observed over a two-month period for the study.

Through that system and a careful monitoring of Internet use patterns in test subjects, researchers were able to figure out both the average amount of time young adults spend online – and the negative effects of doing so.

“About 5-10 percent of all Internet users appear to show web dependency, and brain imaging studies show that compulsive Internet use may induce changes in some brain reward pathways that are similar to that seen in drug addiction,” Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, of the Duke University Medical Center, was quoted as saying. “We tend to take drug-related addictions more seriously than if someone were using the Internet as a drug.”

The most significant problems reportedly stemmed from gaming, chatting and browsing, which led to feelings such as introversion and loss of control. The students observed for the study also experienced cravings.

Those involved with the study noted that research is still preliminary and does not establish a direct “cause and effect” relationship between Internet use and negative symptoms of addiction, Medical News Today noted.

Still, Doraiswamy noted, “The negative consequences of the Internet may be quite underappreciated.”

The study’s findings were said to have been presented at the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Networks and Telecommunications Systems.

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