A study in the September edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine revealed that researchers were able to link Internet addiction with a variation in a gene. "There are clear indications for genetic causes of Internet addiction” explains one of the researchers, and "If such connections are better understood, this will also result in important indications for better therapies."
There were 264 participants in the study, half of whom self identified as having problematic Internet use. Similar to the manifestation of other addictions, these participants had obsessive thoughts over use of the Internet, which gave them a high when using it and a low when they didn’t have access to it. These 132 participants were evaluated against the other 132 who identified as having no problematic Internet use.
Researchers compared their DNA and found that the gene known as CHRNA4 was greatly pronounced in the Internet addicted group compared to the control group. Interestingly, they found this to be the case particularly among women. This study is the first of its kind to reveal that Internet addiction is real and not just another phantom diagnosis. Researchers found that CHRNA4 impacts receptors in the brain that send messages between brain cells and activate the brain’s reward system. The reward system creates euphoric feelings associated with an action and so the action is repeated to sustain the reward.
Although the article disclaims that more studies are needed among different group of people to determine “better therapies” for Internet addicts, there have already been innovative addiction treatment programs that have created specific programs and specialty tracks for Internet addicts. These treatment centers treat the addiction with the same assiduousness as any other addiction because Internet addicts go into the treatment programs with a the same sense of isolation and hopelessness.
If you or a loved one is facing problematic use of the Internet, addiction treatment centers that specialize in Internet addiction can help.