"There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders, and it doesn't get to have the word addiction attached to it," said Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, according to a story by Reuters. The vote is significant as it pertains to insurance coverage of the proposed ailment. Addictions such as alcoholism are described as diseases by medical experts, with sufferers receiving insurance compensation for treatment.
The AMA's vote is a preliminary step, with the American Psychiatric Association retaining the final say on psychiatric definitions. Following the publication of a 10-page document produced by the AMA, which argues for the inclusion of video game addiction in the next revision of the DSM-IV, the AMA has since backed down from its prior stance. The body now recommends that the APA consider the change for the next full edition of the DSM, which is scheduled to be published in 2012.
Many experts argue that studies related to video games and addiction are often inconclusive. "It's not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There may be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what they are doing," said Dr. Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The Entertainment Software Association agrees. "The American Medical Association is making premature conclusions without the benefit of complete and thorough data," ESA president Michael Gallagher said.
The AMA's own report also acknowledged the divided opinion of researchers on the subject. "However, as with findings on long-term aggression, there is currently insufficient research to definitively conclude that video game overuse is an addiction," read the report, which was presented by Dr. Mohamed K. Khan, chair of the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health. The document then went on to recommend the inclusion of "Internet/video game addiction" as a formal diagnostic disorder.
Some haven't waited for a formal declaration before beginning to treat the perceived problem. An Amsterdam addiction treatment facility last year opened Europe's first clinic dedicated to the treatment of video game addiction. "There were 15 year olds being brought to us who were showing the same behaviour as 50-year-old gambling addicts," said Keith Bakker, director of the Smith & Jones Wild Horses Center. "This can get totally out of control. These games can be designed to keep the players going, there's no pay-off, it's like climbing a mountain with no top. They're not in their rooms playing games about collecting flowers. They're up there for 18 hours a day playing computer games about killing people."
While video games may not be labeled as addictive any time soon, doctors still stress moderation. "The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socializing, the less time they will have with their families, the less time they will have exercising," Kraus said. "They can make up academic deficits, but they can't make up the social ones."