UK paper claims games are addictive as heroin, paper's source says not quite

Video games can be as addictive as heroin, the U.K. Sun reports.

According to the publication, Britain is "in the grip of a gaming addiction which poses as big a health risk as alcohol and drug abuse." The investigation, which is behind a paywall on The Sun's site, links video game playing with increased dopamine levels and the Call of Duty franchise to three suicides. One clinic reports receiving 5,000 calls in a year about video game addiction.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, is quoted in today's Sun article and provided a 10-step questionnaire to determine if readers suffer from video game addiction. Reached for comment today, Griffiths told Polygon that "The positives of gaming far outweigh the disadvantages."

"I got asked to provide a little diagnostic test some readers could do without seeing what The Sun had done," Griffiths told Eurogamer. "There is no evidence the country is in 'the grip of addiction.' Yes, we have various studies showing a small minority have problematic gaming. But problematic gaming doesn't necessarily mean gaming addiction. They're two very separate things. Yet the media seem to put them as the same."

He was also quoted in a story published last year in The Sun that covered research that shows gamings positive effects.

"There is no evidence that video games, played in moderation, have any negative effect whatsoever," Griffiths said last year. "The only negatives are reported from excessive hardcore play. There is a small minority of players who do see a negative effect, but the positives far outweigh the negatives."

The Sun's report is not the first to compare video game addiction to heroin. A 2010 report in the the U.K. Daily Mail about a woman who neglected her family compared the two. Dr. Andrew Doan calls video games "digital heroin for the mind," while referencing B.F. Skinner's experiments on operant conditioning. A Forbes report earlier this year compared virtual reality to "legal heroin," citing the medium's effect on dopamine levels.

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