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Teens texting addiction can be like being addicted to drugs

Published: August 26, 2010
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Source: CBS

Teenagers are becoming addicted to texting, according to a new study. In fact experts are saying being hooked on texting can be like being addicted to drugs.

Walking, sitting, it doesn't matter where it happens, teenagers seem to need to text. Statistics show 80 percent of all 15 to 18-year-olds own a cell phone. And the rate of texting has sky rocketed 600 percent in three years. The average teen sends 3,000 texts a month.

"I think that it's just like a drug, once you get hooked on to it, you can't let go. It's like whenever I open my eyes the first thing I look at is my phone," said Hermine Vardanian, a texter.

"It clearly fits the criteria of an addiction," said Dr. Gary Small, a Psychiatrist.

Neuroimaging studies show the same brain areas are stimulated with both texting and using heroin.

"In a very primitive part of the brain, the dopamine system gets triggered. That's the general reward system in our brain," said Dr. Small.

Some texting addiction warning signs include losing track of time because of excessive texting, neglecting eating and sleeping, having a constant need for more, and suffering negative repercussions, like ignoring others or lying because of texting.

Chronic texters actually say they feel bad when they don't get a text. All the more reason to text even more people.

"What they like to do is text, rather than talk. So if you call them, they go 'mom why didn't you just text me, why did you have to call me?'" said Cara Steninberg, a mother.

For most texting addicts, the hook comes with a cost and it's not just on their phone bill. Experts say teenage brains are still developing and they haven't fully developed the area that processes consequences and regulates impulses, which can be a problem especially while driving and texting.

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