Will Jeffery used to spend hours — sometimes days — alternating between playing video games, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and mindlessly scrolling through the online forum Reddit.
When he checked into a rehab facility a few years ago, a therapist helped him realize that screen time was just as much of a problem for him as cocaine, pot and alcohol.
"I used drugs, alcohol, video games, Reddit and Netflix bingeing as a coping mechanism for life," said Jeffery, a 25-year-old Toronto native who will soon start his second year of classes at the University of Colorado. "For whatever reason, I never developed the tools to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.
"And so I found these things as my tools."
Jeffery, whose struggles led him to drop out of college in Canada, has found community at CU through the Collegiate Recovery Center, which supports students recovering from addiction, including those for whom technology — Netflix, Facebook, video games, pornography — is their drug of choice.
In our technology-saturated world, therapists say there is an increasing need for services and support groups that address screen addiction, which often goes hand-in-hand with substance-use disorders and mental-health issues.
"What we see here is just like other areas where someone might struggle," said Sam Randall, program manager for CU's Collegiate Recovery Center. "It's often that the student might be seeking something that the screen time is giving them. For some, it's a form of escape. For others, it might be a form of connection or a form of release."
The center began hosting support group meetings last spring for students grappling with technology overuse. The Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous group meets Thursdays at the center, which is located on the ground floor of the University Memorial Center. Between five and 12 students attend those meetings depending on the time of year, which is on par with other support groups offered at CU, Randall said.