Last summer (August 2009) I came across and article on internet addiction in the New York Times, focusing on how the internet permeates everyday family life, often intruding upon the face to face activities that traditionally connect members of a household together. Although in may cases the behavior is not considered an obsession, it is growing exponentially to the point that the editors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, are considering including internet addiction, and internet gaming addiction in the 5th edition due out in the spring of 2013.There are legions of people who can’t start the day without reaching for their cell phones, their laptops, checking email, voice mail, text messages, twitter accounts – or whatever else they are into. There is a fine line between needing to be connected because of your job or family situation, and needing to be connected because you are obsessed with being connected. There are also those who use this technology as a substitute for face to face interaction. An example of this is the parent who uses a cell phone to wake their teen in the morning. Rather than walking upstairs to their kid’s bedroom, they’ll call or text message the wake up. Often these are the same parents who harangue their kids about the amount of time they spend on the internet.As an addiction treatment professional, I am most interested in how we as a society will categorize the various use levels of communication technology. What will be considered normal internet/cell phone use and what will be considered obsessive or pathological use? Initial studies are now being launched that are taking a close look at functional MRI’s and PET scans of individuals who exhibit these compulsive behaviors, and I believe these will show the same sort of anomalies in the same reward reinforcement circuitry in the brain, in the same dysfunctions in the control circuitry of the brain that we see with other addictions. In my opinion, this has the potential to become a wide spread compulsion because unlike drugs, alcohol and gambling – there is easy, legal, and relatively inexpensive access.In addition to the societal downside of people obsessed with being “connected” via technology rather than “in real life” – is the real danger of harming others because someone’s attention is elsewhere. Most of us have experienced having to share the road with a driver who hasn’t a clue as to what is going on around him or her because they are totally engaged in a phone conversation or are busy answering a text message. Studies show a driver talking on the phone has the same limited abilities as someone driving under the influence of alcohol. Fortunately many states recognize the danger associated with this behavior and had the wisdom to pass laws requiring hands free phone use. It will be interesting to see how these laws are enforced, especially when it comes to texting while driving – an even more dangerous behavior. Will people be locked up for driving under the influence… of their cell phone? This is a subject that like technology itself – will unfold in the weeks and months to come.