Addiction specialists and psychologists in Algeria have launched the first Internet addiction rehabilitation center in the country with the hope of rehabilitating social media addicts, according to Al Jazeera. Much like drug and alcohol dependency, Internet addiction has become a major issue in many parts of the world, with young people being the most vulnerable. This has prompted medical professionals at Bachir Mentouri medical clinic in Constantine, Algeria to develop a rehabilitation program for compulsive users of the Internet, especially on social media.
“When talking about addiction, people usually think about tobacco, drugs, or alcohol dependency, but for some, the fight is with internet, especially the ‘magic blue’ of Facebook,” head of the medical staff at the treatment center, Dr. Hakima Boualem, explained.
Internet Addiction Discourse
Algeria may be the first African country to develop a rehabilitation center for Internet fanatics, but it’s just one in a growing list of countries around the world that have developed support systems and programs for Internet addicts.
South Korea, the country with the largest number of Internet users, has already treated thousands of children addicted to the Internet through digital detox camps, Al Jazeera reports.
At least 14 percent of South Korean teenagers are addicted to the Internet, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Family.
With a population of 40 million people, Algeria currently has more than 9 million Facebook users and at least 33 percent of its entire population is connected to the Internet, according to statistics from the country’s digital marketing analysts.
“[Internet addicts] share many symptoms with hardcore drug addicts. When not able to go online, web fanatics feel fidgety and can show aggressiveness or anxiety,” noted Dr. Sihem Hemadna, a psychologist at the Constantine rehab center.
Young and Old
The Algerian Internet Rehabilitation Center, which opened in May, has so far treated more than 100 Internet addicts.
Hemadna says most of her patients say they can spend the whole day on social media platforms, sometimes without eating or showering.
Contrary to many people’s belief that only teenagers can be addicted to the Internet, doctors at the clinic say they have been receiving patients who are in their 40’s.
According to Djamel Berkat, an addiction specialist at the rehab center, constant Internet use is not considered obsessive or addictive, even if someone spends hours each day in front of a computer. He explained that real addiction means adopting a pattern of use that impacts other areas of your life and that you can’t control.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI