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NHS launches centre to combat addiction to ‘digital heroin’

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A West London hospital will be the first to offer treatment for extreme gaming disorders. Following the controversial classification of 'gaming disorder' as a recognised mental health condition by the World Health Organisation last month, a West London hospital will be opening the first ever internet addiction centre.

The centre will be aimed at young people and adults with gaming addictions through therapy sessions, with aims to treat other internet-based addictions in the future. According to the WHO gaming becomes an addiction when it takes priority over all other life interests.

Founder of the centre is psychiatrist, and neuroscience researcher at Imperial College London Henrietta Bowden-Jones. The professor has also worked on numerous projects aimed at combatting addiction, from being part of the ICCAM neuroscience research group to develop treatments for all addictions to treating homeless drug addicts in Soho Rapid Access Clinic.

Bowden-Jones celebrates the long-awaited recognition of gaming addiction as a disorder, following nationwide celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the NHS. As part of the NHS five year plan starting 2017/18 the organisation proposed 10 points of efficiency, concentrating funds on prevention centres in order to reduce the number of people needing treatment for more serious mental health issues at a later date. 

However, the launch of the gaming addiction centre has also been dogged by criticism, as many experts question whether the blurred lines between a common hobby and an ‘addiction’ could lead to misuse of scarce NHS funding.

Licensed psychologist and executive director of a non-profit mental health clinic in Texas Anthony Bean has argued that misdiagnosis is likely to be common, whilst recovering addict and founder of UK Addiction Treatment Centres Eytan Alexander also shares similar worries, but states that overall launch of the centre is a ‘step in the right direction.’

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