Can't Stop Web Surfing? Go to Rehab

Growing number of Internet addicts now seek in-house treatment.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:42 AM

PEORIA, Ill., Aug. 7, 2008 — -- At the height of his Internet addiction, Ben estimated that he spent at least 16 hours a day surfing the Web.

"Days would pass before I would shower, shave or eat," Ben told

The college student, who asked that his last name not be used because of privacy concerns, said that he simply could not get off the computer.

Ben said he would play computer games until the sun came up and then sleep for a few hours during the day. Eventually, he simply lost interest in the world around him and flunked out of college.

It wasn't until his online obsession drove him to attempt suicide that Ben sought help at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery -- the only in-patient facility in the country that treats patients for Internet addiction.

Located 180 miles outside Chicago in Peoria, Ill., Ben said that the rehab saved his life.

While could not observe an actual group therapy meeting because of confidentially concerns, the Illinois Institute put on a mock session that it said closely reflected a real meeting.

Five employees performed the parts of addicts who are routinely treated in the facility, including a cocaine addict, an alcoholic, a compulsive online shopper and a nurse who could not stay away from Internet chat rooms.

And while this was only a mock session, therapist Tonya Camacho told that it was almost identical to what she dealt with every day.

"It's very common for others not to believe that Internet addiction is real," said Camacho, who said that bickering between addicts is common during sessions.

During Ben's six-week stay at the institute, he went to group therapy with addicts battling other vices, such as eating disorders.

"In fact, the person who is addicted to his or her computer is going to have the same 'high' as the drug addict who is about to go see their drug dealer," Camacho said. "Both are escapes from the real world."

She said that Internet addicts commonly resist the removal of their computers.