Abu Dhabi will open a gaming addiction clinic next year
Soon after the World Health Organisation recognised ‘video gaming addiction’ as a legitimate condition, the UAE’s capital says it will open a clinic for the illness as soon as next year.
The clinic, which is based at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi, aims to educate the wider community on the gaming addiction, as well as treat patients afflicted with the modern condition.
WAM reports Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi, Director-General of the NRC says that “the NRC is welcoming all patients [who are addicted to any behaviour] to come and seek help from us. Gaming addiction is mainly a behavioural issue and we are building the capacity and training our workforce to deal with any sort of additive behaviours”
In 2019 Ghaferi says the clinic is not yet taking patients. Instead it is currently learning more about gaming addiction as a whole, what the root of it is, how to treat it, and then training staff according to what they have discovered.
Ghaferi, along with Japanese medical professionals partnering with NRC, says that they want to increase the “depth of knowledge” on the issue. It’s hoped Abu Dhabi can discover age groups the illness most commonly plagues, as well as nationality, and the field of medicine the illness falls into.
NRC hopes to have outpatient clinic up and running by next year, at the moment the focus is on raising awareness and knowledge of the issue.
"We did not receive any patients as such. We have to raise awareness within the community and we have to alert families about this possible problem," said Ghaferi during a meeting on Public Health Implications of Behavioural Addictions, being held in Abu Dhabi.
The National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi
Alcoholism and drug dependence have been a key offering of the NRC since 2002 but Ghaferi has now said it’s a right of anyone to come in for gaming addiction and they needn’t be worried since gaming addiction isn’t related to illegal activity.
Abu Dhabi’s decision to tackle the modern ailment head on comes as the WHO recognised digital/video game addiction as a medical condition.
It describes the condition as the following: "a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour" that becomes so extensive it "takes precedence over other life interests".
The UAE is a particularly ‘vulnerable’ area for this newly-theorised illness. The video games industry in the Middle East is worth over US $1 billion per year already, expected to quadruple in just three years according to a report in 2017 from Abu Dhabi’s Media and Entertainment Free Zone Authority. In more recent times, the figure attributed to the gaming industry in the area has been closer to US $3 billion.
Visualising gaming as any other kind of addiction, you could safely call mobile gaming a ‘gateway drug’. More than 80% of smartphone users in the UAE identifying themselves as 'mobile gamers,’ said a study by the gaming analytics firm Newzoo in 2019.
The gaming industry is growing at a colossal rate and one justification for this is “high internet and smartphone penetration rates” claims Beatrice Cornacchia, senior vice president, Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa at Mastercard.
Ghaferi assures that his clinic is happy to help anyone that needs the service, Emiratis and expatriates alike.