Internet addiction grows as drug, cigarette use declines | News | DW | 22.05.2012
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Internet addiction grows as drug, cigarette use declines

Germans are smoking fewer cigarettes, drinking less alcohol and taking fewer drugs. But ever more people are becoming addicted to the Internet, the government's drugs commissioner has said.

Around 560,000 people between the ages of 14 and 64 in Germany are addicted to the Internet or use it excessively or pathologically, a government report on addiction has found. At the same time, ever fewer people are dying from other addictions, such as drug or alcohol abuse, and preventative steps seem to be having a positive effect.

"In many areas the measures to reduce drug consumption are showing results, especially among children and young people, that is, the group that is especially vulnerable," said drugs commissioner Mechthild Dyckmans as she presented the government's annual addiction report in Berlin on Tuesday.

The report examines the number of people addicted to legal and illegal drugs, gambling and the Internet as well as the efficacy of programs to prevent and treat addiction.

Dyckmans said the results were largely positive. Although millions of Germans are addicts, she highlighted data showing that tobacco and cannabis use has dropped.

Only 12 percent of those between 12 and 17 smoke cigarettes at least once a week, and 70.8 percent of young people have never smoked. That figure stood at 40.5 in 2001.

Rise in binge drinking

The report did, however, show that the number of teenagers and young adults admitted to hospital after drinking too much alcohol was increasing, while 42 percent of them had taken part in binge drinking. Around 1.3 million people in Germany are addicted to alcohol.

Cannabis-consumption, on the other hand, appears to have become less popular. Only 6.7 percent of teenagers and young adults had ever tried the drug. One in four Germans between 18 and 64 have used cannabis at some point in their lives.

Dyckmans said more research should be carrying out to understand pathological attachment to the Internet and computer games, growing problems that have the greatest effect on young people, around 250,000 of whom are addicted.

She also highlighted gambling machines, which are often located in snack bars and neighbourhood pubs, as being too easily accessible to young people. Male teenagers from immigrant families were particularly susceptible to spending their time and money on the machines. In the 18-20 age group, the number of men addicted to the machines trebled over the past five years, reaching 19.5 percent.

"If it was up to me personally, gambling machines would be out of bars and pubs entirely," Dyckmans said.

ncy/sej (dpa, dapd, AFP)