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In China, Tao Ran, director of Addiction Medicine at Beijing Military Region Central Hospital, recently reported that 13.7 percent of Chinese adolescent Internet users - about 10 million teens - meet Internet addiction diagnostic criteria.

As a result, in 2007 China began restricting computer game use; current laws now discourage more than three hours of daily game use.

Still, Dr. Block is skeptical that the United States will follow suit.

“The industry sells nine games every second,” he says. “There are very powerful forces that are allied against ever seeing this diagnosis in the DSM.”

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, a gamers’ advocacy group, says while substance addiction is a serious problem, it is unfair to single out gaming.

“What we’re really talking about here is media addiction, but unfortunately we’re not even talking about that,” he says. “The issue has been politicized down to games, to the exclusion of all other media, including movies, music and television. It seems disingenuous on its face. Is there a small percentage of folks who turn their TV or movie watching or game playing into an obsession? Sure. There’s an argument to be made for Trekkies, ‘Star Wars’ fans and even ‘Sex and the City’ devotees - all of whom repeat behaviors that can be paralleled with unhealthy substance addictions, but that does not a causal relationship make.”

Addiction experts also fall on both sides of the argument.

“There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance-abuse disorders, and it doesn’t get to have the word ‘addiction’ attached to it,” said Stuart Gitlow, a New York addiction psychiatrist, at the 2007 AMA meeting.

David Walsh, founder of the National Institute for Media and the Family, says the debate - as well as the number of gamers showing symptoms - is likely to grow between now and the time the next DSM is published.

“I think more and more clinicians are seeing gamers whose playing patterns are so similar to those who have drug and alcohol addiction,” Mr. Walsh says. “I am not talking about kids who really like and enjoy video games; I am talking about players who get so involved in the game that other activities suffer, as does their physical health. The video game industry hates the term, though. The word addiction connotes a lot of issues they do not want to go near.”