A 16th-century Amsterdam canal-house has been converted into a clinic for addicts of on-line games. Run by addiction expert Keith Bakker, the clinic is the first of its kind in Europe, offering in-patient programmes lasting four to six weeks. Most of the patients are young people who have been spending up to 18 hours a day gaming online, often using games as an escape from family problems or the difficulties of growing up. The treatment methods are similar to those used for gamblers and alcoholics, but with gaming the problem is complicated by the computer. Maressa Hecht Orzack, founder of a similar addiction service at the McLean hospital in Boston, told the New Scientist magazine that Gamers cannot simply abstain from using computers, they are now an integral part of our lives. Treatment at the Amsterdam clinic is not covered by health insurance and patients have to cover the 500-per-day fees themselves. The on-line games industry currently has a turnover of US$3.4 billion, which is predicted to rise to US$13 billion by 2011.
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