Giving you an inside look at video game addiction rehab

Whether you’re a kid or an adult, you may play video games every day — it’s natural for many people to play and then get on with their lives. Some people, though, are unable to, and they can become addicted to the screen.

In fact, some families are paying thousands of dollars to send their kids to a video game addiction rehab center right here in Washington.

When you think of addiction, you might think of alcohol or drugs, not video games.

“This addiction is similar to an eating disorder,” co-founder of ReSTART Rehab, Hilarie Cash, said. “If you have an eating disorder, you still have to eat food, right? But what you learn is what foods to avoid.”

Cash helped create the first video game rehab center in the U.S. located in Bellevue, Washington. They’ve helped teenage boys, as well as some men in their 20s.

How in the world do you become addicted to video games? Some might believe you could just grow out of it. However, it’s just not that easy for some people.

“You become a slave to the addiction, and you really can’t control it, so your life becomes unmanageable,” Cash said.

ReSTART’s adolescent program is for boys between 13 and 18 years old. Cash said they’re physically and mentally out of shape at an age where development matters most.

Now, many of us grew up playing outside for most of the day, and then video games came later on in life. But, in this case, video games are all these kids know.

“If you never have any old interests and you have to build everything through the ground up, it’s a lot harder,” Cash said.

So, ReSTART helps by stripping them of all they know – their phones, their laptops, and of course, their video games.

How do you just take something away from an addict? You give them something else to do.

The kids are sent to a 30-acre ranch in Monroe, Washington. When they first arrive, they go through an intensive phase – working through withdrawals like any other addiction.

“Once you stop the addictive behavior you can really begin to look at what’s underneath there and driving all of this,” Cash said.

They have structured schedules of activities and classes each day; like therapy, but in the most comfortable way possible. Each room is built with a different theme to ease their anxiety.

We know how addictions to drugs and alcohol can negatively impact someone’s life, but how exactly are video games setting these kids up for failure? How does it go from a hobby to an addiction?

“Our guys tend to withdraw and isolate in front of the screen, and so their social confidence is very low,” Cash said. “They tend to be very avoidant, socially.”

Often times, these kids are depressed or suffering from other mental health issues because of their addiction. On top of that, most of them are failing out of school. ReSTART gets them back on track.

“They might struggle with school even if they’re bright,” Cash said.

ReSTART is a licensed school, but the patients are still students. They can pick up right where they struggled to finish, and can actually graduate high school from the program at their own pace.

They also learn how to use technology for the right reasons.

“We’re trying to teach them to use the internet for staying in touch with people, but maybe not through Facebook because maybe Facebook is a problem for them,” Cash said.

You might be wondering how much this all costs – the beginning stages of the program cost about $550 per day. After that, it costs about $7,000 per month.

But, for these teenagers, restarting their life is priceless.