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AMA Cools Video Game Objections

The report was presented by Mohamed Khan, an oncologist in Buffalo, N.Y., who chairs the council on science and public health. The council found that about 10 percent of video game players spent so much time gaming that it interferes with other aspects of their daily life.
by Ed Susman
UPI Correspondent
Chicago (UPI) June 27, 2007
The Darth Vader-like image of video games sucking the psychic life out of young teenagers was ratcheted down a number of notches as the American Medical Association's House of Delegates held up stop signs to those who wanted to classify ardent gamers as suffering psychiatric illness. "I don't think we should be medicalizing something that may prove to be normal behavior," said Stuart Gitlow of Woonsocket, R.I., a delegate from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Gitlow and others balked at labeling excessive video game activity a psychiatric illness. Their arguments gained traction among the 555 delegates of the policy-making body of the AMA.

The House Wednesday changed the tone and focus of the resolution, and even changed the title:

Originally called "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games," the final version of the report now is titled, "Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Video Games and Internet Overuse."

The AMA's council on science and public health -- which initially wanted video game addiction to be included in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- backed away from its first report, and accepted changes that virtually expunged use of the term "addiction" in the report.

The proposed video game scrutiny by the AMA proved once again that those issues that appear solid in the corridors before the meeting often wilt when other doctors shine a bright light on the subject.

Gitlow not only disagreed that gaming should be considered a psychiatric disorder; he was also unrepentant in wondering why the report sought a two-hour time limit on video game use. "There is no science to support that a time limit makes a difference," Gitlow said.

David Fassler, a child psychiatrist from Burlington, Vt., said that while there are data to suggest that exposure to violence can increase aggressive behavior, there are no data to support the video game addiction hypothesis.

Fassler, who is a delegate from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said also that he thought it would be inappropriate for the AMA to lobby for the addiction diagnosis in the diagnostic manual.

The report was presented by Mohamed Khan, an oncologist in Buffalo, N.Y., who chairs the council on science and public health. The council found that about 10 percent of video game players spent so much time gaming that it interferes with other aspects of their daily life.

However, Khan said that discussions with other doctors led him and his council to soften the position of the AMA, and instead ask the American Psychiatric Association to review the data and render an opinion.

Among those with an opinion was AMA president-elect Ron Davis of East Lansing, Mich., who described the impact of gaming that he witnessed among his three sons, now 21, 19 and 14. His sons were faithful, avid and relentless players of an online gaming community called Warcraft.

Davis said that for the players, who form online relationships with other members of their teams and then go on missions and raids together, the connection to the virtual world of the game is sometimes so strong that "it impairs relations with family and friends."

His impassioned comments, however, exceeded the three-minute time allowance, and he was abruptly halted by Elizabeth Kanof, a dermatologist from Raleigh, N.C., whose public health committee eventually changed significant parts of the report that reflected the change in mood.

On the floor of the House of Delegates Wednesday, the only discussion was to change the title -- and that, as well as acceptance of the rewritten report, was accomplished without opposition or dissent.

The revised report does ask for federal agencies to fund quality research on the benefits or detriments of video games and Internet use and to specifically determine a scientifically based guideline for total daily or weekly screen time.

It also requests a review of the video games ratings system, and will send a copy of the report to the American Psychiatric Association for its review.

Source: United Press International

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Sydney (AFP) Jun 24, 2007
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