View Full Version : Gaming's New Drug Culture: Sex, Drugs and Counter-Strike

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:23 AM
Gaming's New Drug Culture: Sex, Drugs and Counter-Strike

Aaron McKenna, Rob Wright (http://www.tomshardware.com/site/submission/feedback.html?site=twitchguru&ed=Aaron%20McKenna,%20Rob%20Wright)
August 28, 2006 20:33
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(http://stores.tomshardware.com/home_games.php/mode=toms_creative_twitchguru_house_mlink)Introduc tion

A common scene at today's LAN parties and competitive tournaments includes scores of young gamers and a very simple extra ingredient: energy drinks. Many gamers, whether they're aspiring professionals or amateurs who enjoy displaying their talents in front of an audience, will load up on Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster and other popular energy drinks loaded with caffeine, sugar, and various stimulants.
But if you look harder at some of these events, you may find something else that gamers are using to stave off fatigue: Ritalin. The prescription medication - generic name methylphenidate - is a potent stimulant commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome. Despite the fact that Ritalin and similar drugs are used to calm people with ADHD and improve their concentration, the drug is actually a powerful stimulant. It is so potent, in fact, that the U.S. federal government identifies methylphenidate as a Schedule II narcotic, grouping it with opium, cocaine, PCP, and Oxycontin.

It's no secret that Ritalin has been criticized in recent years for over-prescription and abuse. College students have taken to popping Ritalin, colloquially known as "Vitamin R" and "R-Ball," to keep themselves awake and increase their concentration during late-night cram sessions. Now the drug is being used for an entirely different kind of task: performance enhancement during gaming.
And Ritalin is not the only narcotic being abused by gamers for the purpose of enhancing their skills and prolonging play. Indeed, a number of drugs are becoming popular among gamers, from amphetamines to nootropics or "smart drugs". Young people are even experimenting by combining drugs, such as Ecstasy and Viagra.
Dr. Maressa Orzack is a licensed psychologist and founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Services clinic at McLean Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, which treats video game addiction. Orzack believes heavy game play can lead to many gamers trying illicit substances in order to enhance and prolong their playing time. "Amphetamines and methamphetamines are becoming popular; they can certainly help you stay up for long hours and probably help enhance the excitement. A lot of gamers, particularly the addicted ones, try to find ways to avoid sleep and keep their concentration."
While marijuana and video games has been a popular combination for years, many gamers have moved beyond simple recreational drugs to more potent and targeted narcotics. "Marijuana is still the prime example when it comes to video games," Orzack says. "I haven't had any of my patients tell me about [Ritalin and amphetamines] yet, but I won't be surprised when someone does."
Dr. Maressa Orzack

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:24 AM
Introduction, Continued

It's hardly shocking that gamers would leap from energy drinks to more powerful substances to gain an advantage or heighten the experience. It's also not that shocking that people would turn to prescription medications to do so as well. Consider that the U.S. Air Force uses amphetamines, commonly known as Dexedrine or "go-pills," to help pilots stay sharp on short rest. It seems that whether you're flying an F-16 or just a Microsoft flight simulator version of one, go-pills can help.
But what effect will drugs like methylphenidates and nootropics have on professional video game competitions? Will such performance enhancing narcotics create a "steroid era" similar to that of Major League Baseball?

A person within the professional gaming industry, who wished to remain anonymous, says that so-called performance enhancing drugs are becoming a concern. "You hear stories about this from time to time," according to this individual. "I haven't seen anything first hand, but there have been a lot of whispers about kids who come into Halo 2 tournaments, for example, high on Ritalin.
"There have been a couple of isolated incidents in major competitions where thousands of dollars are stake, but those cases didn't involve performance enhancers." The source, who has intimate knowledge of the eSports world, described a recent case where a professional gamer who was rumored have a crystal methamphetamine problem showed up at a major competition with all of the tell-tale signs of serious meth addiction.
Even with such incidents, event promoters and professional gaming organizations have not instituted a testing policy. As a result, professional gaming could indeed enter its own "steroid era" before it becomes accepted as a true sport in its own right. "They don't allow drugs, but do they test for them? No, absolutely not," the source says. "As the money gets bigger at these events, and as drugs like Ritalin become more prevalent at LAN party competitions, this will probably become a greater problem."
Over the next few weeks, TwitchGuru will explore gaming's new drug culture and examine how it will affect both social LAN parties and professional gaming competitions. In the first part of this ongoing series, Aaron McKenna, managing editor Tom's Hardware Guide UK & Ireland, explores a local LAN party to find out what drugs are the choice of today's gamers.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:25 AM
Sex, Drugs And Counter-Strike

A Personal Account From The Edge Of Video Gaming

By Aaron McKenna
Editors Note: Aaron McKenna recently attended a LAN party at an undisclosed location and observed a number of gamers, who wished to remain anonymous, indulging in various activities such as illicit drug use. The following article recounts his experiences and observations of what we would term the modern LAN party. To keep the account realistic, this article contains references to illicit and illegal drug use, some frank observations and some coarse language.
"There's enough shit here to put a man on the moon," my hospitable host told me with a twinkle in his eye. Strewn around the otherwise neat kitchen in quasi-organized backpacks and plastic shopping bags was an impressive collection of uppers, downers and psychedelics. Stuff to snort, stuff to smoke, stuff to swallow - marijuana, cocaine, mushrooms, acid, Ritalin, Adderall, Ephedrine - with side orders of beer, vodka and whiskey for those not taking part in the very specialized mental activities here this weekend.
Welcome to the modern LAN party. The culmination of nearly 50 years of youthful drug use and almost 30 years of video gaming, this is the natural co-evolution of two of the Western worlds most popular recreational activities for the young and virile. "Think about it," one clean-cut and respectable looking acid-head told me, "and it makes perfect sense. We're all gamers, and we all enjoy doing drugs. What could be better than doing them both at once?"

The place was beginning to fill. The bottom half of an innocuous-looking suburban home, anonymous in its uniformity, was about to become a high-tech drug den. Apart from the loaded kitchen, one would not be able to distinguish this from any other clean and respectable gathering of geeks. Computers were being hauled into the various rooms around the bottom of the house, cables were being crimped, and a moderate-sized network was being expertly assembled by high-GPA students and seasoned systems engineers. Wires were run from the large dining room (now sans dining table) to the living room, where couches had been moved but not removed to allow for extra seating. The cables snaked around into the kitchen, where the main hub was located, giving the place the feel of a building under construction.
No, this was not a gathering of twitching, crazed-looking heroin addicts who would sell organs - theirs or yours - to feed their habits. It was not a cult of religious acid-heads trying to reach out and touch some higher cosmic power. Nor did anyone there reek of ether from one end of the day to the next.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:27 AM
Sex, Drugs And Counter-Strike, Continued

This was a gathering of your average 16-to-30-year-old diligent students and tax-paying citizens, for a LAN party that just happened to involve the consumption of copious quantities of drugs. Or perhaps it was the other way around: that particular rationale changed from person to person, and depended on how far into the 48-hour stretch we were. "But then, who really cares?" was the sentiment of a man doped on hash and giggling at nothing in particular.
Breaking off my inspection of what would come to be known as the "Soup Kitchen," I made my way towards my allotted space along a row of desks inhabiting the living room. With my trusty desktop replacement notebook my setup time was brief, apart from the usual 15 minutes of "oh no, the bloody network is screwing me over again!"

On the face of it this appeared to be a normal LAN party, with the usual banter and goings-on as the place was set up. Geeks and hardcore gamers can be totally relaxed at an event like this, cracking jokes and saying things funny and meaningful only to their brethren. They would not behave this way "in the wild" but in here, in this controlled, safe and comfortable environment, things were different. Serious discussions of the future of online distribution, the graphics and processor businesses, RAM clock timings, and the merits of Battlefield over Counter-Strike were accepted, fostered and encouraged.
Geeks may be on the verge of ruling the world, and everyone and his granny may be a gamer of some description these days. Still, the truly geeky - those who know their AMD from their Intel and debate passionately on the subject of which bests which - are still outcasts from general society. One can go onto a forum and find likeminded people, but there remains no substitute for the face-to-face contact and spontaneity of one of these geekfests.
Running under and through this atmosphere of geeky amity was something else though, something completely different. For me, this entire weekend, this entire LAN, would have a taste to it unlike anything I had ever experienced before. For me it would be, and always will be, characterized by and associated with the sound of sniffing.
Snorting is the preferred method of taking Ritalin. You can ingest the capsules and let the concentrating agents enter your system as intended, or you can get a much, much faster and more intense rush by snorting the powder straight. Ritalin is now the choice substance for serious gamers who spend almost the entire party focused on the competitive gaming, and it was the sound of their habitual sniffing that would come to haunt my dreams for the following days and weeks.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:28 AM
Over The Counter, Under The Table

Of all the things that surprised me on my trip to the edge, what got me the most was the fact that most of the gasoline fuelling this mad technocratic rave comes from over (and often under) the counter in perfectly legitimate tablet form. Cannabis, heroin and cocaine may be illegal in a lot of the Western world, but there remain many extremely powerful drugs available by prescription. Indeed, many residents of Western society, from housewives to stock brokers, rely heavily on prescription drugs to get them through the day without falling victim to hyperactivity, manic depression, insomnia, impotence and other ailments.
The rationale of the gamers here, of course, is simple: if the rest of world uses these medications, then why not us? "These are the white collar mind fuckers," the eloquent host of our gathering told me, as we sat on one of those hard couches that have seen too many years' use to be properly comfortable any longer. "Students, programmers, everyone benefits from these," he said, waving his hand over a small collection of wonder drugs. "Ritalin is the big one, of course - perfect concentration, instant education. What more could you ask for when you've got an exam in a week and the entire assembler architecture to learn?"

I looked around the room and peered into the next one, glancing over the tables of computers with strangely intent eyes gazing into their magnificent virtual realities. We had settled in, and the first rounds of playful and sporadic gaming were over. Now the semi-organized competitions had begun, with a round of Age of Empires II. Nobody was studying anything of any major consequence, I noted, but there was plenty of Ritalin. "So why use them here?"
"Well obviously nobody is gonna be studying in here," my host said with a clipped laugh. "It improves your game, and lets you go on for longer. The concentration is a great help, but I personally think it's the patience that's the best. Counter-strike is your typical LAN game - it's a bit twitchy, and the rounds are over comparatively quickly, but stick around a while and we'll start playing games that need some real patience. Capture the Island on Operation Flashpoint is a favorite."
Ritalin has become a preferred drug for gamers

Indeed, I knew it well. Operation Flashpoint is one of the most realistic and ambitious soldier simulations money can buy on the commercial market. Capture the Island is a form of multiplayer that mixes simple base building with strategy, the soldier simulation and, of course, the task of capturing an island town by town. A single game, with enough players, can last for hours. The nature of the soldier sim requires patience, just as in real life, in every move you make. Using something like Ritalin or Adderall makes a lot of sense under these conditions .
"Some people tend to get chattier when they're on speed. Others get more aggressive. Depends on the person," my host mused. "But so long as you don't take too much at once, or mix too much, it's just what you want for a LAN - a lot of concentrated guys bantering at one another and with the perfect outlet for any aggression."
"Well, I should certainly hope so," I said with a smile on my face and a frown on my mind, returning to my station for a several hour run that would take me and my comrades from hossie rescue missions to futuristic Halo death matches. Thank God I wasn't on acid - the images presented by reality can be disorienting enough without all of this fantastically fictional stuff to work over my poor befuddled brain. I'd probably have left the place thinking I was a benevolent deity who was also pretty handy with a pulse rifle.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:29 AM
Any Color You Like

Stumbling out into the waning light to stretch my legs and gasp for breath, I found the side of the garden outside the LAN party house to be pretty deserted. It had filled up earlier for an impromptu wrestling match, the result of a PlayStation 2 wrestling game gone pro. But since those two rolling whales returned to their non-physical mortal combat, the garden had become like a Buddhist retreat from the madness inside.
"It is highly important that you understand," said one long haired fellow with the makings of a goatee on his face, "what this is all about."
"And what would all this be about?" I replied, sitting down next to him on the short garden wall. I was seeking some fresh air from the stuffy computer-heated interior of our compound. Fresh air is, however, a relative term when you compare a sweaty, heated interior to sitting beside a chap smoking a joint as a breeze is blowing your way.
"It's more what it's not about that's important," he said, with the makings of a point to put across to me. "Understand that what you're dealing with here isn't some crazed bunch of crack addicts. This is your normal everyday garden variety of Joe Soap getting off his face like every normal garden variety Joe Soap does. We're just Joe Young Soap, who uses mind fucking drugs other than alcohol to get off."
"Right," I said slowly, "but you must also understand that nobody on the outside world will give a shit about that."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said, cutting me off. "I see where you're going. Kids plus video games is bad. Kids plus drugs is worse. Kids plus video games plus drugs equals a fucking nightmare, oh no let's ban the damn things now!"
"Drugs are banned," I said.
"I meant the fucking video games," he snapped. "Well you know what I say to all that? Fuck them, right in the ass." I pondered this typical youthful response to any such problem. It's the type of intransigent position you usually get from someone too impatient to argue, but I decided to take him up on the unspoken offer to play devil's advocate.
"I know what you mean," I started, with a conciliatory position before beginning the row, "but maybe they have a point? I mean, you guys are sitting here taking drugs specifically for the purpose of playing games."
"No! That's not it at all!" he blurted. "See, I told you that you have to understand! We're not doing these things because we play video games, we smoke hash and take Ritalin because those are things we do anyway. We play games anyways, so why the hell not combine them? I mean, Jesus, you'd have to be an idiot to think that students don't do Ritalin to help them study, and hash is so damn harmless that they're halfway to legalizing it in most of the civilized parts of the world."

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:30 AM
Any Color You Like, Continued

He passed me the half-smoked joint and leaned forward to put his head between his legs. He was traveling into space, closing his eyes to take that long drop off into a place that seems funny for no particular reason whatsoever.
Prescription medications have joined marijuana and other illegal drugs as popular choices at LAN parties

After a while of sitting there listening to him giggling randomly I got up and went back into the cook house. Down the hall and into the kitchen I found two chaps in jerseys - some of the passersby who had dropped in to our unlicensed midnight drugstore - setting up lines of cocaine for themselves on a PlayStation 2 DVD case. "Shit," one of them began, looking up from his meticulous work, "I only have a fiver. Anyone got a twenty, or a fifty?" His eyes seemed to light up at the mention of a fifty.
"What difference does it make?" I asked, curious.
"You get a better hit the bigger the note," the second coke head said. "Wanna try some?"
"Um, no thanks," I replied. I have my limits, and becoming a cokehead is well beyond them. "But I do have a fifty here," I said, removing and unfolding the large note from my pocket and handing it to the first man.
"Cheers mate," he said as I moved in for a closer inspection of this interesting procedure. Two lines of white cocaine sat parallel on the back of the case, with an ATM card sitting off to one side, a telltale white residue around its bottom edge - exactly like in the movies, I remember thinking at the time. In the middle of the table there were two rather surprisingly small plastic bags, the type that kids get jelly candies in.

As I was inspecting this setup, the fifty was rolled up into a tight tube and the first chap went straight in, taking two swipes to lift the first line of the white powder. As he came up he handed the note to the second chap while he continued to sniff what powder he could right into his bloodstream. The DVD case was carefully moved to give the second chap a better vantage point, and he too swooped in. (As an interesting aside, in the UK alone 15 million worth of banknotes have to be destroyed every year because they're so contaminated with cocaine and other such drugs.)
Still sniffing every last fine grain of the powdery drug - which I had always more imagined being snorted by high-class ladies at their dressing tables before a night out - the second chap handed me back my fifty. Wondering about the banknotes, and knowing that both my fifty and my trouser pocket would now have substantial amounts of cocaine on them, I had to think about just how ubiquitous these drugs must be in everyday life.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:32 AM
Rise Of More Than Nations

You know you're in trouble when your gaming is interrupted by a scream of "come on you fuckers, who's first?" Things generally go south from there if, when you turn around, you find a completely naked man with a giant erection standing in the middle of the room, beckoning for someone to come over and sit on his lap.
"What the fuck?" I said, turning to my opponent in a now paused game of Rise of Nations. He laughed and leaned towards me so that our crazed colleague couldn't hear - quite unnecessary, as he was now loudly harassing someone at the far end of the room - and said, with that glint in his eye and half choked laughter in his throat, "we spiked his soup with sextasy."
"What the fuck is sextasy?" I asked, ever the innocent farm boy.
"It's E[ecstasy] and Viagra," my opponent turned guru explained. "E can make you go limp, which is a bitch because it makes everything feel so much better. Mix E with Viagra, though, and you solve that problem."
I looked back up to watch our stiff friend disappear into the hallway, still the loudest person in the place. "Yeah, and create a euphoric sex maniac in the process," I pondered aloud.
"Oh yeah," the sextasy guru told me, "he'd pretty much do his own dead granny at this point." The statement hung in the air like humidity in Bangkok as I turned back to my screen, hoping that if I launched a human wave attack at the guru's nearest settlement, he'd be too distracted to expect me to try to reply.

The propensity for the practical joking rife at LAN parties to mix with drug use was obvious, and I knew I'd have to watch out for our horny friend over the next couple of hours. I'd have to be on my guard and sleep with one eye open...
Viagra and Ecstasy are combined to make "sextasy"

It was 2 a.m., and the LAN party had begun at 12 noon the previous day. It was time for a nap. Damned if I was going to lie down on one of those uncomfortable couches in the middle of no man's land, where you were prey to an awful lot of roaming mischievous souls. No, we had appointed the upstairs to be a sanctuary from this madness.
I climbed the stairway to heaven, faced with a door on the left, a door in front and a move to the right around the landing. I didn't even bother looking to my right as I trundled upwards, and so when I took the turn the scene that confronted me was a real stammering shock and surprise. Our deranged sextasy friend had found his match. They had tried to make it into one of the bedrooms, but apparently failed and were sprawled across the doorway and out onto the narrow landing.
"Oh, um, gosh, terribly sorry, just going to the bathroom" I stammered, totally unprepared for this encounter, which I was in no mental state to deal with. I stepped over the convulsing, moaning pair and proceeded to the bathroom. It was a nice bathroom, which was a pleasant surprise; well tiled with nice gentle colors, well lit, a clean floor and - best of all - not covered in piss and puke.
What was wrong about this bathroom - decidedly so, one might say - was the fact that there were four people sitting side by side in the bathtub, their legs dangling over the edge so that their bodies made a half an M-shape. The only conciliatory thing about this scene was that they were smoking three joints between them. If this had just been four completely stone-sober people sitting in a bathtub, then I would have suspected that they had learned that the world was about to end, and that the entirety of humanity had descended into a bunch of people humping in hallways and sitting in bathtubs.
I needed to go, so I was thankful that the toilet sat faced the tub and I could go with my back to the assembled audience. It was inevitable that as soon as I had my fly down I could hear some poor stoned chap attempting to clamour out of the tub with the assistance of at least two other equally baked persons. There was some grunting, a bang and a lot of swearing. I was done, flushed the toilet, washed my hands and, had I not just gone, would have pissed myself at the sight of four people having collapsed in on one another.
"We, uh, tried something funny," one of them said. "Give us a hand out," said another. I laughed and walked out, closing the door and shutting off the light to a general chorus of abuse, walked down the hall, stepped over the still humping couple, and proceeded into a neutral looking room where I could huddle down in the corner for an hour's kip.

Jet Set
09-01-2006, 11:33 AM
Coming Back To Life

It was bright out. This came as a bit of a painful, contracting shock to my eyes, as the house had thick, heavy curtains inside to block all but a hint of light. I hadn't been outside in hours. Everyone was crashing from their various intakes, and it was not a pretty sight. The weekend's rubbish was strewn about, from half-eaten doughnuts to the paraphernalia of drug and alcohol abuse. Ambling about the rooms were muted people, reddened eyes with bags under them, speaking to one another in hushed tones far from the jovial and loud banter of yore.
There was some attempt at a cleanup in the still darkened hovel behind me. I needed to get out, to experience some fresh air free from the stench of stale sweat, burned hash and spilled alcohol. It was warm outside, with barely a cloud in the sky. It could have been around mid-day as I lay down on the dry grass for a few moments of respite before collecting my gear and making a move.

People around me and inside were communicating quietly, clearing up, saying farewell, arranging future appointments and ensuring that everything went home with the person it should. I closed my eyes. This was the end of the modern LAN party. Or perhaps it was a new beginning, I wasn't sure. The dull aching at the back of my eyes was attempting to drag me into a deep sleep. I would be conked out for hours to come.
We were all in this state, but nobody regretted it. One must always pay for the pleasurable sins in life, and this penance was no different. The overriding feeling was that "we had fun." It was stimulating, it was thought provoking, it was enjoyable, and it had peaked and peaked again to become a most memorable weekend.
On Monday we would all return to our normal lives. Some would go back to stacking shelves, some would go back to programming the tools which seamlessly run our lives, some would fix cars and others computers. Some would simply go to bed, the student bums who did not bother to find a job for the summer. They think themselves to be in the advantageous position, getting a lie in on Monday that would last into Tuesday given our general condition, but in reality the working crew knew differently: they could afford this lifestyle on an ongoing basis.
Will drugs like Ritalin and other prescription medications make their way from small, home-based LAN parties to major events like LAN ETS in Montreal?

Apart from the general weariness at the beginning of the working week - a tell-tale sign of any type of good weekend involving vices legal or illegal - there had been no harm done. In terms of damage to general Western society, it was minimal. Even drug addled geeks tend to keep to themselves, pay the rent, clean up and generally stay out of society's way on the general understanding that it stays out of theirs.
What had we achieved? Certainly nothing in the material sense, but life had been made bearable for another while. The dull struggle of day to day work had paid off, and everyone was happy and contented until the next time. Going into work as a drone to stack shelves in the cereal aisle wouldn't seem so bleak a prospect with this experience to look back upon, and to look forward to again.
The mixing of the drugs culture and the gaming culture is not that surprising, whether you think about it as an outsider, as one who has experienced either in isolation, or someone who has done both at once. Love it or loathe it, for many it is a perfectly natural evolution. "When you're high," I had been told at the beginning of our adventure, "reality becomes a game, and the game becomes a reality."

09-10-2006, 10:00 AM
Thanks, good read. Very funny and interesting...

09-11-2006, 12:01 AM
It was only a matter of time. Gaming is becoming more major an event than billiards, or even sports. Compettition of any sort will make anything major like this. I can only imagine how many fools will be missing work, or getting dropped from classes in order to perfect their game once Halo 3 comes out just so they can be number one and soothe their wet dreams of winning a championship with their "skills" I bet after this hits major they're gonna start drug testing at those gaming tournaments and that's just sad...

Jet Set
09-16-2006, 08:15 PM
I was already thinking about gaming on xtc, that's a whole other experience. And playing speed games like Wipeout, or music games like Dance Dance Revolution & Pop N Music, can only be enhanced with the use of xtc.

Just like watching movies all night, or going out.

09-16-2006, 08:57 PM
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- An addiction center is opening Europe's first detox clinic for video game addicts, offering in-house treatment for people who can't leave their joysticks alone.

Video games may look innocent, but they can be as addictive as gambling or drugs -- and just as hard to kick, says Keith Bakker, director of Amsterdam-based Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants.

Bakker already has treated 20 video game addicts, aged 13 to 30, since January. Some show withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking and sweating, when they look at a computer.

His detox program begins in July. It will run four to eight weeks, including discussions with therapists and efforts to build patients' interests in alternative activities.

"We have kids who don't know how to communicate with people face-to-face because they've spent the last three years talking to somebody in Korea through a computer," Bakker said. "Their social network has completely disappeared."

It can start with a Game Boy, perhaps given by parents hoping to keep their children occupied but away from the television. From there, it can progress to multilevel games that aren't made to be won.

Bakker said he has seen signs of addiction in children as young as 8.

Hyke van der Heijden, 28, a graduate of the Amsterdam program, started playing video games 20 years ago. By the time he was in college he was gaming about 14 hours a day and using drugs to play longer.

"For me, one joint would never be enough, or five minutes of gaming would never be enough," he said. "I would just keep going until I crashed out."

Van der Heijden first went to Smith & Jones for drug addiction in October 2005, but realized the gaming was the real problem. Since undergoing treatment, he has distanced himself from his smoking and gaming friends. He says he has been drug- and game-free for eight months.

Like other addicts, Bakker said, gamers are often trying to escape personal problems. When they play, their brains produce endorphins, giving them a high similar to that experienced by gamblers or drug addicts. Gamers' responses to questions even mirror those of alcoholics and gamblers when asked about use.

"Many of these kids believe that when they sit down, they're going to play two games and then do their homework," he said.

However, unlike other addicts, most gamers received their first game from their parents. "Because it's so new, parents don't see that this is something that can be dangerous," Bakker said.

Tim, a gamer who is under treatment, agreed to discuss his addiction on condition that his last name not being used. He said he began playing video games three years ago at age 18. Soon, he wouldn't leave his room for dinner. Later, he began taking drugs to stay awake and play longer. Finally, he sought help and picked up other hobbies to occupy his time.

Symptoms of addiction are easy to spot, Bakker says. Parents should take notice if a child neglects usual activities, spends several hours at a time with the computer and has no social life.

Bakker said parents of game addicts frequently echo the words of partners of cocaine addicts: "'I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was."'