Can Acupuncture Help Your Video Game Addiction Recovery?

“I failed, seven times, before successfully quitting World of Warcraft.”

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The eighth time was the first time I had a conversation about quitting without feeling judged. It was also the first time I used acupuncture to help myself.

It was seven years ago. He was my professor. I spent the day working up courage to tell him I was trying to quit a video game. I expected inevitable judgement and dismissal, and an aggravating line of skeptical questioning about how video games could even be a problem.

I was completely braced. He was completely unfazed.

Instead, he shared his experience as a smoker, then as a mentor for other smokers. He informed me acupuncture has successfully treated addiction for 40 years 1 1. Kolenda, J. (2000). A Brief History of Acupuncture for Detoxification in the United States. Acupuncture Today, 1 (9). Retrieved from http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=27686 × . He suggested I try it.

I gave myself acupuncture that night.

The results were noticeable right away. Unlike the last seven times I failed to quit, I had to work less against myself to stay away. Whenever I had the craving to play, and had the choice between reinstalling or recovery, I was able to choose recovery. I was more level-headed emotionally. Acupuncture alleviated the severe tendonitis I gave myself gaming 16 hours a day. I had more energy. For the first time in five years I began to have normal sleeping and eating patterns again.

Recovery was still challenging, but acupuncture helped me build courage, take control, and keep it. For seven years.

Due to necessity, acupuncture’s success in treating video game addiction is well-researched. China declared video game addiction a nationwide epidemic in 2008 2 2. Ives, M. (2017). Electroshock Therapy for Internet Addicts? China Vows to End It. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/13/world/asia/china-internet-addiction-electroshock-therapy.html?_r=0 × 3 3. Fallows, D. (2007). Internet Addiction in China. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2007/09/07/internet-addiction-in-china/ × . The New York Times and The Journal of Asia Pacific Psychiatry report that “the highest prevalence of problematic internet use is in Asia 2 2. Ives, M. (2017). Electroshock Therapy for Internet Addicts? China Vows to End It. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/13/world/asia/china-internet-addiction-electroshock-therapy.html?_r=0 × ,” with South Korea being the highest in the world 4 4. Montag C, Bey K, Sha P, Li M, Chen YF, Liu WY, Zhu YK, Li CB, Markett S, Keiper J, Reuter M. Is it meaningful to distinguish between generalized and specific Internet addiction? Evidence from a cross-cultural study from Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and China. Asia Pac Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;7(1):20-6. Doi: 10.1111/appy.12122. PubMed PMID: 24616402. × . The first Internet Addiction clinics were in Asia. Acupuncture’s 40 years success treating addiction made it an integral tool for recovery for Internet addicts 1 1. Kolenda, J. (2000). A Brief History of Acupuncture for Detoxification in the United States. Acupuncture Today, 1 (9). Retrieved from http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=27686 × , 5 5. Pulling the Plug. China.Org.CN. Retrieved from http://www.china.org.cn/china/features/content_18592980.htm × , 6 6. (2015) MRI Finds Acupuncture Relieves Internet Addiction. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1533-mri-finds-acupuncture-relieves-internet-addiction × , 7 7. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM. Clinical effect of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on patient with Internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;29(3):212-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 19548435. (effect psycho +ax) × .

How Does Acupuncture Help Video Game Recovery?

A study done in 2009 at Chengdu University on the improvement rate of Internet Addiction Disorder showed that acupuncture paired with psychotherapy had 91.3% improvement, versus 59.1% from psychotherapy alone 8 8. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × .

Quitting video games is already hard enough. With acupuncture, the chance of improvement goes from nearly half to nearly 100%.

Video Game Addiction Damages the Brain. Acupuncture Treats the Damage: Studies show that video game addiction damages the brain in two ways:

  1. Decreasing grey and white matter mass 6 6. (2015) MRI Finds Acupuncture Relieves Internet Addiction. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1533-mri-finds-acupuncture-relieves-internet-addiction × , 9 9. O’Callaghan, J. (2015). Could video games increase your risk of Alzheimer's? Navigating virtual worlds can reduce grey matter and make you prone to mental illness, claims study. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3087905/Navigating-virtual-worlds-reduce-grey-matter-make-prone-mental-illness.html × , 10 10. Zhou Y, Lin FC, Du YS, Qin LD, Zhao ZM, Xu JR, Lei H. Gray matter abnormalities in Internet addiction: a voxel-based morphometry study. Eur J Radiol. 2011 Jul;79(1):92-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2009.10.025. PubMed PMID: 19926237. × , 11 11. Kuss, D. J. (2013). Internet gaming addiction: current perspectives. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 6, 125–137. http://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S39476 × , 12 12. Lin F, Zhou Y, Du Y, Qin L, Zhao Z, Xu J, Lei H. Abnormal white matter integrity in adolescents with internet addiction disorder: a tract-based spatial statistics study. PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30253. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030253. PubMed PMID: 22253926; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3256221. ×
  2. Changing brain chemistry pathologically 6 6. (2015) MRI Finds Acupuncture Relieves Internet Addiction. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1533-mri-finds-acupuncture-relieves-internet-addiction × , 11 11. Kuss, D. J. (2013). Internet gaming addiction: current perspectives. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 6, 125–137. http://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S39476 × , 13 13. Linden, D. (2011). Video Games Can Activate the Brain's Pleasure Circuits: Like Cigarettes, Video Games can Cause Rapid Brain Dopamine Release. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compass-pleasure/201110/video-games-can-activate-the-brains-pleasure-circuits-0 × .

fMRI studies show that acupuncture rebuilds grey matter and also normalizes brain chemistry 6 6. (2015) MRI Finds Acupuncture Relieves Internet Addiction. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1533-mri-finds-acupuncture-relieves-internet-addiction × , 7 7. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM. Clinical effect of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on patient with Internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;29(3):212-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 19548435. (effect psycho +ax) × . Additionally, video game addiction has measurable negative effects by blood serum, which acupuncture also addresses 14 14. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM, Chen J, Li H. Effects of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on anxiety state and serum NE content in the patient of internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2008 Aug;28(8):561-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 18767577. × . The whole point of recovery is to rewire the brain to stop craving video games and start feeling rewarded by other activities.

Acupuncture boosts this process at the brain and blood level, which leads to the next point:

Acupuncture Makes Recovery Faster and Easier:

brain

Quitting games can take quite some time to start feeling right. Since acupuncture works directly on the brain and blood, it produces positive effects sooner. The first two weeks are the hardest. Relapses happen the most here. Why? The first two weeks are when the brain has yet to rewire and heal from craving stimulation and video games constantly. Acupuncture normalizing brain chemistry means fewer cravings 7 7. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM. Clinical effect of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on patient with Internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;29(3):212-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 19548435. (effect psycho +ax) × , 8 8. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × , 13 13. Linden, D. (2011). Video Games Can Activate the Brain's Pleasure Circuits: Like Cigarettes, Video Games can Cause Rapid Brain Dopamine Release. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compass-pleasure/201110/video-games-can-activate-the-brains-pleasure-circuits-0 × , 15 15. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × , fewer compulsive desires 7 7. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM. Clinical effect of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on patient with Internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;29(3):212-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 19548435. (effect psycho +ax) × , 13 13. Linden, D. (2011). Video Games Can Activate the Brain's Pleasure Circuits: Like Cigarettes, Video Games can Cause Rapid Brain Dopamine Release. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compass-pleasure/201110/video-games-can-activate-the-brains-pleasure-circuits-0 × , 15 15. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × , and less anxiety 7 7. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM. Clinical effect of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on patient with Internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;29(3):212-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 19548435. (effect psycho +ax) × , 8 8. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × , 14 14. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM, Chen J, Li H. Effects of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on anxiety state and serum NE content in the patient of internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2008 Aug;28(8):561-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 18767577. × , 16 16. Wolever RQ, Goel NS, Roberts RS, Caldwell K, Kligler B, Dusek JA, Perlman A, Dolor R, Abrams DI. Integrative Medicine Patients Have High Stress, Pain, and Psychological Symptoms. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.04.003. PubMed PMID: 26044918. × .

It is possible to start feeling better, sooner–maybe even from the first treatment. This means a smaller chance of relapse due to frustration and not seeing the positive effects of quitting. And that is not all that acupuncture does:

Acupuncture Minimizes Secondary Symptoms of Video Game Addiction:

Secondary symptoms include: Pain from repetitive stress injuries (tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc), neck pain, wrist pain, low back pain, sciatica, and more 17 17. Dimitrova A, Murchison C, Oken B. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2017 Jan 23. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0155. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28112552. × , 18 18. MacPherson H, Vickers A, Bland M, Torgerson D, Corbett M, Spackman E, Saramago P, Woods B, Weatherly H, Sculpher M, Manca A, Richmond S, Hopton A, Eldred J, Watt I. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2017 Jan. PubMed PMID: 28121095. × , 19 19. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians.. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Feb 14. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28192789. × . Acupuncture has also been shown to effectively treat stress 16 16. Wolever RQ, Goel NS, Roberts RS, Caldwell K, Kligler B, Dusek JA, Perlman A, Dolor R, Abrams DI. Integrative Medicine Patients Have High Stress, Pain, and Psychological Symptoms. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.04.003. PubMed PMID: 26044918. × , depression 16 16. Wolever RQ, Goel NS, Roberts RS, Caldwell K, Kligler B, Dusek JA, Perlman A, Dolor R, Abrams DI. Integrative Medicine Patients Have High Stress, Pain, and Psychological Symptoms. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.04.003. PubMed PMID: 26044918. × , 18 18. MacPherson H, Vickers A, Bland M, Torgerson D, Corbett M, Spackman E, Saramago P, Woods B, Weatherly H, Sculpher M, Manca A, Richmond S, Hopton A, Eldred J, Watt I. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2017 Jan. PubMed PMID: 28121095. × , 20 20. Wang Z, Wang X, Liu J, Chen J, Liu X, Nie G, Jorgenson K, Sohn KC, Huang R, Liu M, Liu B, Kong J. Acupuncture treatment modulates the corticostriatal reward circuitry in major depressive disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2017 Jan;84:18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.09.014. PubMed PMID: 27693978; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5125902. × , 21 21. Fan L, Fu W, Chen Z, Xu N, Liu J, Lü A, Su S, Wu T, Ou A. Curative effect of acupuncture on quality of life in patient with depression: a clinical randomized single-blind placebo-controlled study. J Tradit Chin Med. 2016 Apr;36(2):151-9. PubMed PMID: 27400468. × , and anxiety 8 8. Zhu TM, Li H, Du YP, Zheng Z, Jin RJ. Intervention on network craving and encephalofluctuogram in patients with internet addiction disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 May;31(5):395-9. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 21692281. × , 14 14. Zhu TM, Jin RJ, Zhong XM, Chen J, Li H. Effects of electroacupuncture combined with psychologic interference on anxiety state and serum NE content in the patient of internet addiction disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2008 Aug;28(8):561-4. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 18767577. × , 16 16. Wolever RQ, Goel NS, Roberts RS, Caldwell K, Kligler B, Dusek JA, Perlman A, Dolor R, Abrams DI. Integrative Medicine Patients Have High Stress, Pain, and Psychological Symptoms. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.04.003. PubMed PMID: 26044918. × .

Additionally, excessive gamers may also have insomnia 22 22. Lin YF, Liu ZD, Ma W, Shen WD. Hazards of insomnia and the effects of acupuncture treatment on insomnia. J Integr Med. 2016 May;14(3):174-86. doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(16)60248-0. Review. PubMed PMID: 27181124. × , fatigue 23 23. Tian L, Wang J, Luo C, Sun R, Zhang X, Yuan B, Du XZ. Moxibustion at Gaohuang (BL 43) for chronic fatigue syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015 Nov;35(11):1127-30. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 26939325. × , 24 24. Shu Q, Wang H, Litscher D, Wu S, Chen L, Gaischek I, Wang L, He W, Zhou H, Litscher G, Liang F. Acupuncture and Moxibustion have Different Effects on Fatigue by Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System: A Pilot Controlled Clinical Trial. Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 25;6:37846. doi: 10.1038/srep37846. PubMed PMID: 27886247; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5122953. × , and headaches 18 18. MacPherson H, Vickers A, Bland M, Torgerson D, Corbett M, Spackman E, Saramago P, Woods B, Weatherly H, Sculpher M, Manca A, Richmond S, Hopton A, Eldred J, Watt I. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2017 Jan. PubMed PMID: 28121095. × –all of which are treatable with acupuncture.

Acupuncture has no side effects:

The main reason acupuncture is used by major organizations such as the United States Army, Veteran’s Affairs Hospitals, and most major health insurance providers is that it has ample evidence of effectiveness without side effects. Contrasted with drugs, acupuncture (when done correctly by a licensed acupuncturist) is much lower risk for the benefits gained, and cheaper in the long run.

How Can You Use Acupuncture in Your Own Recovery?

Use acupuncture to minimize cravings and symptoms so you can focus on recovery goals. Start acupuncture as soon as you decide to quit to feel better sooner. The first two weeks are the hardest. Give yourself an edge.

If you have any of the secondary symptoms, such as pain, tell your acupuncturist. It is important to prevent permanent damage from happening. Since acupuncture has no side effects, talk to your health professional about getting acupuncture treatments before trying drugs.

Make no mistake: Acupuncture was a huge contributor to my success, but recovery still took persistence. Quitting video games was singly the hardest but most rewarding thing I have faced. I strongly believe that if you can quit your video game, then you can do anything you want in this world.

Today’s article is by Diana Yang, L.Ac., DACM, founder of Limbic Acupuncture in San Francisco. Limbic Acupuncture is the first clinic in the United States to specialize in acupuncture for Internet Gaming Disorder. A former intern at Restart Life, she is a licensed acupuncturist and life coach. She is a firm believer that gamers are the most brilliant people in the world, and that the way to win IRL is to “Think Outside the Skinner Box.” Follow her on Facebook.

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