ReSTART has been opened outside Seattle, the rain-soaked north-western town where high-tech companies are as common as cattle are in Texas. It claims to be America’s first residential detox centre for internet addicts.
For a little over $14,000, up to six people at a time can spend 45 days sweating out their insatiable urge to be umbilically connected to cyberspace.
Residents are given counselling and psychotherapy, as well as encouraged to bond as a group in activities such as household chores, walks in the grounds and exercising.
The centre, in five acres about 30 miles out of Seattle, is the brainchild of Hilarie Cash, a therapist who had until this summer been treating patients with presumed Internet addiction but only on a day-by-day basis.
She recorded her first case in 1994, with a patient so glued to video games that he forfeited his marriage and two jobs.
Cash points out that though countries such as China, South Korea and Taiwan have places that cyber addicts can seek help, America has been slow to recognise the condition.
ReSTART offers anyone who suspects they are suffering from internet addiction the opportunity to test the hypothesis with a behavioural survey which, helpfully, can be completed via the Internet. Question 12, for example, asks: “Are you experiencing chronic exhaustion due to lack of sleep, weight gain from lack of exercise, poor general health from poor nutrition, or other physical health problem due to excessive internet use or video gaming?”