Is it possible to be addicted to mobile phones? Clinically, no
March 14, 2022

On 10 March, five experts met in a new session of Encuentros Complutense to discuss “Addictions in the information society”.

They all agree that addictions associated with substances such as alcohol, tobacco or opioids have clear empirical evidence, while the same is not true of behavioural addictions.

For the time being, international institutions, such as the WHO, have classified gambling and video games as addictions, but everything else is excluded from a clinical point of view.

Joan Ramón Villalbí, Government Delegate for the National Plan on Drugs, set the tone for the debate, presenting the criteria of what an addiction is: that which generates significant functional impairment, has serious physical consequences, develops tolerance, is relevant in the lives of the subjects, causes withdrawal and loss of control, as well as dysfunctional behavioural stability and relapses. And it is also something that other disorders cannot better explain.

Based on all these parameters, he himself considers that it is impossible to consider mobile phone use as an addiction, and believes that in many people, including himself, “intense mobile phone use is largely forced by work obligations. Sometimes the mobile phone is a symptom of other problems, such as those who gamble with it, but it is not the main problem”.

Beatriz Martín Padura, director general of the Fundación FAD Juventud (Fundación de Ayuda contra la Drogadicción), agrees with the same idea. She recognises that technology is omnipresent in our lives, for fun, relationships, learning… “and here the devices are merely a tool, so talking about mobile phone addiction is wrong”. If there is an addiction, it will be to content ,such as online gambling and video games “which are often harmful or inappropriate for certain ages”.