WASHINGTON DC: A pioneering US centre is battling a global mental health threat. Isaac Vaisberg finally realised that the internet had taken over his life after a mind-numbing 40 hours of playing the online game World of Warcraft.  He hadn’t left his Washington DC flat for five weeks, there were 132 missed calls on his phone, and he had put on 40lbs by living off junk food delivered to his door.

“I’d been playing that game for eight years. February 20 was the last time,” he said. “Initially, I had thought, 'This is ridiculous, you can’t be addicted to a behaviour.’ But I was just scared of calling myself an addict, and accepting that this was something I would have to deal with the rest of my life.”  Vaisberg, 21, from Venezuela, had won a scholarship to study law and business at a prestigious US college, and seemed to have a glittering career ahead. But as his addiction took hold, he retreated into a virtual world. He lost the ability to interact with other people. “I found I could no longer express myself to another human being,” he said.  For the past three months he has been going cold-turkey at Restart, America’s first residential internet-addiction centre, a five-acre retreat outside Seattle. Ironically, it is a short drive from the headquarters of internet giant Microsoft.–Telegraph

The house, where half a dozen addicts at a time recover, is the antithesis of the internet age. A sign at the door reads “No cell phones” and gadgets are banned. Instead, there are plush armchairs, a grandfather clock and a piano. Caffeine, which fuels many addicts’ screen binges, is also prohibited.