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Drugs & Health Blog

Video Game Addiction—Is it Real?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Doodle Jump. Candy Crush. FarmVille. Angry Birds. Cut the Rope. Fruit Ninja. Words With Friends.

Nearly everyone with a smartphone or tablet has played one of these video games. It’s easy to get swept up in the bright colors, cutesy characters—and the satisfaction you feel when you finally complete a difficult level. So you keep playing, and playing, and playing. Lots of people say games like these are “addictive.” But, are they, really?

MaybeAddiction Science Award Winner Ethan Guinn definitely thought so.

Dopamine: Sweet Rewards for the Brain

Rewards in video games, such as points or bonuses, are surprising and often unpredictable. Figuring out that special move or combination that helps you conquer each level feels great. Not knowing when you’ll get that reward keeps you engaged.

These periodic bursts of pleasure are the work of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that causes you to feel happy, and it is what gets you hooked on lots of things in life.

Your brain is designed to release dopamine in response to things that are good for you—like spending time with your friends, eating healthy food, or exercising. Dopamine bursts also reward you when you apply your cleverness to solving real-world problems.

But people have figured out all kinds of ways to tap into the brain’s reward system with things that aren’t so good for you. Drugs and junk food are obvious, harmful examples. Video games might not kill you or make you overweight (at least not directly), but many people feel they are “hooked” on them.

So, Is Gaming Really an Addiction?

Scientists say that more research is needed before they can tell whether being hooked on a video game is actually an addiction.

Addiction is more complicated than just wanting to feel good. People who are addicted to drugs often just want to feel “normal” or not bad. It’s also more than just the compulsive need to keep using a drug or engaging in a behavior. Addiction means being unable to quit, even in the face of negative consequences.

A person with a drug addiction wants to use drugs even when their grades have tanked, they’ve lost their job, and they no longer care about the things that were once important to them. When they aren’t using drugs, they feel withdrawal symptoms that make them sick. Scientists aren’t sure video games can cause the same effects.

But … if you play a game so much that you don’t participate in life’s normal activities—you don’t sleep or eat or hang out with friends or do the things you used to love—you are heading down a dangerous path. If that describes you, maybe you should try not playing the game for a day or two, or even a week. Ask people that you trust if they think you have a problem. And, if you find that you just can’t stop—even if video gaming addiction isn’t officially a disease—you can absolutely get help by talking to your parents or a guidance counselor at school.

Tell us what you think in comments: Is video gaming addiction real?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


I believe that you can't be addicted to video games unless you don't do anything else. It may be your job to play video games so you might have to play the game. Especially if you are a YouTube/streamer.
It is impossible to be addicted to Video games. All video games do is entertain the people. over time some kids or teens or what ever eventual get board and will only play once in a while.
Not impossible, as the article explains...
this actually said that they dont know whether you can get addicted to video games only that they dont help you in your average life
You only say impossible because you arn't a gaming addict, believe it IS possible, all i think about from waking to going to sleep is gaming, it is more important to me than anything in life, even family and friends, i know this is sad but it is the way it is, i wish i wasn't this way but i am and i don't need some scientist to say my addiction is real because he is the only one QUALIFIED to make that decision! How can there be any doubt when there are so many of us out there, lots of people are gaming fans, but for some of us, its our life, this is an addiction is it not?
I agree bro.
same brochacha
i think i want to order pixel sticks
NO!!! my friend has played for his life and just gets new games and he is 49
is he married or in a serious, face to face relationship with another human? Does he or she have a decent-paying job & live on their own? When he/she is away from their games, does s/he have fun? have other friends? pets? hobbies?
It is not impossible. I was straight A student in honors/AP classes. Then i got into one game. I was legit living for that game. I woke up every morning going to school thinking how I'm gonna play the game when i get home. Over the course of 2 years my grades bombed to straight C's. This year I after long talks with my parents I realized that the game was just hurting not just my education but my relations with my parents. On average I played maybe 4-5 hours a day. On weekends I used to play about 8-12 hours a day. I had no real friends or what so ever since i broke any connections with them. The only friends i had were the friends in the game. I was seeing even my parents as enemies that just hate me and my video game. In my opinion it is a mental state that creates the need to be better, to compete with someone. I was living my life thinking about this game. This is my junior year my grades are back to A's but i hope that it is not too late for me to fix my future, since my parents are not financially able to help me that much into college. This is just my story, they might not be addictive for everyone but they really hooked me at one point, thinking for nothing but the game I was playing and how to get better at it. I was almost as a drug addict when I look in retrospect.
You lacked prioritization of responsibilities, that's not an addiction. Many people who lack responsibility choose fun over work. I was a A/B student all through high school while clocking over 2000 hours in one game alone throughout my high school career. Not to mention any other games I played, I still had friends and was even on sports teams. You were just a child who was let loose in a candy shop not an addict. To this day I still play video games daily with a job and even pursuing more education. It's all about time management and most parents don't teach their children at an early age, hence the lack thereof.
Oh how wrong you are. Please do some research using peer reviewed and scholarly sources, then come back and comment.
that is true
im a video game addict my parents don't like games i want to give up my life is being eaten away from games but i like games it like i have a perfect world in them i am the hero i can do anything i want it lets me be who i want but i also want to give up please help me

Hi Jayden, if you want help, SAMHSA runs a crisis line that answers calls 24-7 to help people work through their problems. They're a really good resource, and you can reach them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or If you want to get treatment for addiction, you or your parents can visit or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find a program near you.

i am a you tuber video game is not addicted because of the person mind if they have a less mind then pobbly yes so yeah but be side that video game are so much fun
For me, a lot of games I will crazy play in short term, but will forget after some time, I still like to read the book, only book knowledge will make me progress , the game is just boring time will think of something.
it flappy bird in my world lol and like it the only game i play
Are you kidding me? It's scary people have time to sit back and think that you could actually be addicted to video games. You can play them a ton! Sure! You're a bum! You're not addicted to VIDEO GAMES. Whoever came up with this should be ashamed of themselves, GOOD LORD!
I think that it is important that we take a realistic look at what addiction truly is. I actually know quite a few people who are so into the gaming that it is interfering with there daily life and ability to function. They don't leave their house except on rare occasions and their family relationships are compromised. That is pretty much indicative of "Addition"
people believe it can be real
What ludite wrote this? I play video games more than anyone I know, I also have a girlfriend, I'm currently in my last year of university, I have a part time job and I see my friends often. The kind of people that promote crap like this are the same that tell you to "go outside and do something" and they don't care that you genuinely enjoy yourself inside doing your own thing. They are the kind of people that see what you are doing and they despise it because they want you to conform to the conventional norms. I say forget them, as long as you are happy in yourself and with your life then there is NOTHING wrong with you. p.s. thanks for your not biased opinion..."anti gamer"...jaded fool
XD " 'anti-gamer' ... Jaded fool" Lol
everyone knows it you anti gamer
I admit that I love video games, especially those adventure genre or RPG ones. But I’m not addicted to this, I only play to relieve stress or to take away my frustrations. I believe that playing video games can help you relax more. Anyway, that's only my opinion. Anything will be bad if abuse it.
games are addictive just look at flappy bird
you guys are poops yes you can get addicted to video games
if you think video games arnt addictive then why am i in a house full of call of duty stuff??
call of duty suks bro
you guys are stupid i play video games alot and im not addicted just lok at me im 278 lbs and have beat so many games and pound noobs to theground
Definition of Addiction: the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.(Enjoy being wrong)
You don't have to believe anything someone tells you. At the end it comes to the fact, "Are you using your time wisely?" I am like most teenagers, I like video games; the feeling of being able to conquer my objective is exciting. But am I using my time wisely? I am not saying don't play video game because it is a waste of time. I think there is so much we can do with video games to help our LIFES! My dream is to become a programmer which can work to be a video game creator. But when you let it get in the way of your normal life then it can be a problem. I play Call of duty, EverQuest 2, games on my phone. but i don't let it get in the way of my school, my family, my friends. Every Wednesday I go to tutor kids who's parents don't have time to help them with homework. Yes you can get addicted to video games, or maybe you can't. Does it really matter? I will not answer what yes or no, but i do know this, If your MAIN focus is on a video game, then your not where you should be. YOLO right? So make the best you can do for the world.
Well said! There is a positive and negative side to everything. Thank you for being objective. It's not about the video games per say, it's about addiction. Whether it be drugs, gaming, exercise, overeating etc.
It must be fate..
I LOVE video games and I will admit Ido sometimes get addicted. When I do get addicted I dont care about my responsibilities I just care about winning or finish the game.
hey i am not adicted im noobpounder69
In sports, you'll see professional showing off tattoos is because of impressions on what they feel or to believe. In home videos games is one the most effective "to be safe at home" with our kids in not getting to dangerous path. But yet sign up for sport activity is a great idea for my boys.
well video games is my friend because i didn't have friend when i was little but i'm not adicted to it that be crazy
I think a better question to ask is is reading addiction real? I used to have a book with me at all times, go through 2-3 books in a slow month, and used them as an escape from reality. So why is it that you can have a video game addiction, but not a book addiction? My problem with the notion of a video game addiction is the inconsistency. Spend 12 hours playing games? Bad. Spend 13 hours reading? Good. Getting hyped for a game release? Bad. Getting hyped for a book release? Good. People aren't addicted to video games, they're addicted to the fun it brings and the escape from reality. It's more about computers are bad and destroying people's minds and their ability to communicate (hint: they actually aren't).
I'm addicted to video games myself. I'm only 13 years old, I'm in honors classes and I play soccer which my parents are playing a lot of money for. Before every soccer game I'm playing video games and when I get to the game I don't have energy to play. I get absolutely tired so quickly I don't last 10 minutes. I don't play the way I usually do and after every game my parents are disappointed. It's not that I'm not focused its just that it seems that video games just take away all my energy to play soccer. I'm still in honors class which I'm surprised about. But I also don't talk to my parents a lot. My parents think I'm anti-social which I am with older people. I'm not anti-social with people my age. But I have a tough time talking to people older than me. And sometimes when I wake up from my bed, my eyes get so blurry and I see stars I think. But It goes away quickly. I hope I can get help soon. I fear that video game addiction will change my life.
I totally I agree with what you said.
for those who claim to be addicted to videogames I would challenge you to go out and explore new activities , Hobbies that could be just as rewarding. be honest with yourself, try one new thing a week for about six months, and see if you don't find something that begins to consume your thoughts and time to the same degree. You probably will and that would be indicative of an entirely different issue... Not addiction, but rather more of a compulsion due to a lack of other things in your life and simply seeking to fill that void.
thanks that was really helpful as i am doing a research about it
gaming is a profession nowdays