German Study Used Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Successfully Treat Gaming Addiction

Jul 18, 2019
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Gaming addiction is now an officially recognized disease, given that the World Health Organization included it in the final revision of their ICD-11, approved in May during the WHO's Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

It's with perfect timing that a group of German researchers has published the results of their clinical study to treat Internet and gaming addiction. A randomized clinical trial occurred between January 24th, 2012 and June 14th, 2017, plus followups, in four clinics across Germany and Austria, using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as a short-term treatment.

Related NHS Opening UK’s First Gaming Addiction Clinic; Officials Urge Tech Giants to Take Responsibility

The data analysis took place between November 2018 and March 2019. The paper was finally published last week by authors Klaus Wölfling, Kai W. Müller, and Michael Dreier from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. As it turns out, their approach was quite successful and it's even more remarkable given that no drugs were used for the treatment of gaming addiction.

Results  A total of 143 men (mean [SD] age, 26.2 [7.8] years) were analyzed based on intent-to-treat analyses. Of these participants, 50 of 72 men (69.4%) in the STICA group showed remission vs 17 of 71 men (23.9%) in the WLC group. In logistic regression analysis, remission in the STICA vs WLC group was higher (odds ratio, 10.10; 95% CI, 3.69-27.65), taking into account internet addiction baseline severity, comorbidity, treatment center, and age. Compared with the WLC groups, effect sizes at treatment termination of STICA were d = 1.19 for AICA-S, d = 0.88 for time spent online on weekdays, d = 0.64 for psychosocial functioning, and d = 0.67 for depression. Fourteen adverse events and 8 serious adverse events occurred. A causal relationship with treatment was considered likely in 2 AEs, one in each group.

Conclusions and Relevance  Short-term treatment for internet and computer gaming addiction is a promising, manualized, short-term CBT for a broad range of internet addictions in multiple treatment centers. Further trials investigating the long-term efficacy of STICA and addressing specific groups and subgroups compared with active control conditions are required.

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