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updated 4/22/2005 1:32:25 PM ET 2005-04-22T17:32:25

Suddenly, everybody's talking about Internet addiction. What's next — methadone for mouse fiends?

Some parents send their kids to camp to drop a few pounds, learn guitar or belt out standards from the Pippin songbook. Not in Beijing, where the Communist Youth League reportedly hosted a weeklong camp in April for a dozen or so kids addicted to the Internet. So severe is the problem — some 15 percent of Chinese adolescents are said to suffer from "Internet addiction disorder," according to the China Internet Information Center — that Shanghai elementary school students are now subject to lectures on broadband burnout in addition to the usual antidrug admonitions.

What's the worst that could happen — a nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome? Tell that to the Finnish army, which over the last five years has recused a dozen or so would-be military conscripts from mandatory service because of their Web fixations.

Last spring Hong Kong launched its own public service campaign. No surprise: Its deputy government chief information officer warned that 40 percent of his city's youth were addicts. Stateside, Netheads at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and the University of California, Irvine provided on-campus counseling for incessant clickers.

All that for a medical condition that you can't find in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases or in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the American Psychiatric Association.

Web dependency
Still, between 5 percent and 10 percent of Web surfers suffer a Web dependency, according to experts like Maressa Hecht Orzack, director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at Harvard's McLean Hospital. They experience the same cravings and withdrawal symptoms as, say, a compulsive gambler waylaid en route to Vegas. She refers most of her Net-addicted patients to psychiatrists for prescriptions for antidepressants and antianxiety meds.

Soon it could be even easier to get scrip. Dr. Eric Hollander of New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center is currently treating 22 supposed addicts with Lexapro as part of a clinical study sponsored by Forest Laboratories, which markets the antidepressant.

Turning off the monitor won't do the trick, say doctors like David Greenfield, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Greenfield worries that junkies are finding new ways to score a fix from their cell phones and Treos. "All these devices do the same thing — they numb people from their pain," he says.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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