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Want to Stop Drug Cravings? Try Playing a Video Game

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Most of us have experienced the feeling of being sucked into a video game at some point in our lives. An hour or two passes by and you haven’t moved from the same position. The thoughts and worries that consumed your mind earlier are now a distant memory because the game requires all of your mental energy.

But could the undivided focus a video game requires actually reduce the thoughts that trigger drug cravings?

The Benefit of Video Games

A new study published in the latest issue of the journal Addiction suggests this may be true. The data showed that playing Tetris helped decrease an addiction by as much as 70 percent and reduced cravings in just minutes. Researchers were initially trying to determine whether Tetris would help in reducing food cravings, but ultimately found the classic video game also reduced cravings for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee.

The findings came from tracking 32 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 27. All of the participants played the game for a whole week, then recorded and reported their cravings seven times per day during the study.

“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity,” said Jackie Andrade, professor from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University. “Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.”

Addictive or Therapeutic?

projectknow-shutter302730485-playing-video-gamesHowever, some studies have suggested that video games can be just as addictive as drug for those who play them several hours per day. A 2006 report out of Nottingham Trent University in the U.K. suggested that 12 percent of the online gamers who were polled displayed at least some addictive behaviors. Meanwhile, a separate study that year reported by the Washington Post showed that 2.4 percent of South Koreans ages 9 to 39 suffer from game addiction, with another 10.2 percent at risk of addiction.

But while games like Tetris may reduce temporary cravings for drugs, a substance abuse problem cannot be overcome solely through this method. Entering into a qualified detox facility and inpatient rehab center, as well as undergoing psychological counseling to address the underlying issues triggering the substance abuse problem, are all essential components to a successful recovery.

Additional Reading: Talking to Your Kids about Drinking? 7 Valuable Conversation Tips

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The editorial staff of is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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