> Cover Story
Are You an Addict?All About Addictions from Internet to Gambling
By Choi Sung-in  |  c19@hanyang.ac.kr
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[7호] 승인 2010.04.01  
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

   Last Sep. 24, 2009, a married couple who were addicted to Internet games left their three-month-old daughter to starve to death. The 41-year-old husband and 25-year-old wife were both game addicts. After playing Internet games for 12 hours, they came home in the morning to find their baby daughter dead. This was not been the first time something like this has happened. Last, February 16th, a 22-year-old beat his mother to death because she had scolded him for playing computer games too long.
Addiction is not limited to games. Addiction occurs in other fields such as drugs, alcohol and compulsive gambling. Why does addiction occur?

Reasons and Types of Addiction
   There are two causes of addiction. One is psychological reason and the other is physical reason. When a person who gets stressed, and who has a weak mind makes an attempt on object which is easy to be addicted to, this can lead to addiction. The Nucleus Accumbens, which is a part of the brain, controls psychological addiction. The Nucleus Accumbens is important in transmitting neurotransmitters. “When the Nuclues Accumbens is stimulated in animals, they display addictive behaviors,” said Byung Eun-tae, a doctor in the Seoul National University Hospital.
Physical reasons follow psychological reasons. The most noticeable symptoms of physical behaviors are withdrawal symptoms, such as essential tremors and primary insomnia. When an addict is already addicted in psychological part, withdrawal symptom appeared.
   Types of addiction are classified according to things that the addict is poisoned by. Types of addictions are vary greatly, and include as substance addiction, drug addiction, nicotine addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction and shopping addiction.
   Substance addiction includes Internet addiction, computer addiction and mobile phone addiction. These addictions were created in the 20th century. Substance addiction is caused by confusion between reality and virtual reality. “Substance addiction brings aftereffects. In psychological aftereffect, they can have sense of isolation, loneliness and so on. On the physical side, they can be violent and nervous because of withdrawal symptoms,” said Jang Gil-nam, in National Information Society Agency.
   Drug addiction is easily caused by personality, heredity or the surrounding environment. But these things are not always the cause of addiction. “If some parents are addicted to drugs, their children can be addicts despite the fact that they have stopped using the drugs. 40 percents of children have parents as addicts and eventually become addicts,” saysan official in Korean Association Against Drug Abuse.
Nicotine addiction and alcohol addiction are often caused by social conventions. Korea is accustomed to smoking and drinking. The conventions serve to promote nicotine addiction and alcohol addiction.
   Gambling addiction is a symptom so-called Impulse-Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified (ICDNEC) meaning that the addicts cannot restrain their impulses. ICDNEC are the causes of addictions. But they mainly appeared in gambling addiction.
   Lastly, sex addiction and shopping addiction are caused by a lack of confidence and anxiety. Doctors explain sex and shopping addiction are caused by similar things. Mostly, it is caused by addicts’ internal minds.

Problems Caused by Addictions
   According to the Government Ministry of Public Administration and Security, nearly two million Koreans are afflicted by the Internet addiction. While around 40 percent of the addicts are students, a growing number of adult addicts are also Internet addicts.
   Kim explained, “Studies have shown that the brain of an Internet addict shows abnormalities similar to those found in drug addicts. Internet addicts also have trouble separating the difference between the real world and virtual reality. It is possible for addicts to commit violence and sexual crimes.” In addition, more than 520,000, or seven percent of elementary school students, may be classified as online game addicts, according to data the Korea Creative Content Agency.
   Problem of addiction is not only limited to Internet, computer and games. In Korea, gambling addiction is more serious than in other countries. According to the survey by The National Gaming Control Commission, the rate of gambling is higher than other developed countries. The addiction rate is 2.2 percent in Canada while it is 9.5 percent for Korea. But the rate for Korea is simply an official record. It has been reported that there are more people who do not know they are addicts. The reason why gambling addiction became the biggest problem compared with other addictions is because it causes families to break up. Gambling addiction results is destroying one’s family fortune. It causes family trouble. Every day, millions of Koreans are wasting money at casinos, racetracks, buying lottery tickets and gambling on Internet gambling sites. For example, a 52-year-old housewife wasted all of her money by spending it at a casino last December. She sold all of her property, which was worth about one billion won. Because she would not stop gambling, her husband decided to divorce her. After spending all her money, she wandered around a Jimjilbang, which is a 25 hour service for spas and showers. In Korea, one person out of ten has been diagnosed as a pathological gambling addict. This means the entire nation is sick.

No Solutions Existing Yet?
   Lee Hyun-soo, in the Internet Addition Research Center said, “Crimes rooted in Internet addiction cost the government 97 billion won per year.” Moreover, the Commission's Gamblers Anonymous Center, operating with an annual budget of two billion won, is the only state facility to treat pathological addiction in gambling.
But it is not enough to solve the addiction problem. In cases of other countries, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health of Ontario, Canada spends an equivalent of 36 billion won a year to help an estimated 330,000 gambling addicts.    This is compared to the budget at the Commission's Gamblers Anonymous Center in Korea. The center's five experts have offered counseling services to 2,500 addicts in Korea, 2009.
   The social cost to Internet addicts was 900 billion won. “Expense to cure Internet addiction is far smaller compared with other developed countries. We already have had many addicts. So, to cure the addicts, we need the support from the government,” said an official in National Information Society Agency.
Currently, there is only one organization of drug addiction managed by the government. No organization to solve shopping addiction yet exists.

Possible Solutions
   Medical expert said that most addictions are chronic diseases. However in Korea, not only are there very few counselors to cure addicts, but the system of training counselors is also poor.
   To treat the problem of addiction, the government should first offer monetary support. After recent incidents about Internet addiction, the government already has a solution. The ministry announced that they will make possible restrictions. Details of the Fatigue System will be announced in March. The ministry also said it will increase its budget to solve all kinds of addictions to 50 billion won, 10 times more than the previous year’s budget. Moreover, government is planning to establish a counseling center for addicts.
   Secondly, efforts of addicts are also needed to treat addiction. Though there are both physical and psychological causes of addictions,, both are closely related as mentioned above. So addicts should acknowledge that they are addicts and ask for advice or go to clinics. According to a book, Addiction and Health, matter of all addicts is anxiety.    To overcome anxiety, support groups are also important. “Support groups, including friends, relatives, and family, are the biggest factors in the success of curing addictions. The surrounding people have to help the addicts to feel comfortable,” said Kim Sung-Jun, a member of Korea Christianity Prohibits Alcohol Headquarters.
   All people have attachment of something. But people must know how to distinguish the difference between attachment and addiction. Addiction usually begins with weak mental health. Self-control is needed so that attachment is not changed into addiction. People have to overcome addition not only through restrictions but by the movement of the government facility.

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