Smartphone addiction ‘builds up just like hard drug habit,’ expert warns

Smartphone addiction builds up gradually (Getty)
Smartphone addiction builds up gradually (Getty)

The compulsion to take your phone out of your pocket and check for social media alerts builds up in people just like an addiction to hard drugs, experts have warned.

A new study has shown that people slowly become unable to ignore the ‘pings’ of social media apps – and become lonely and anxious as addiction takes hold.

Professor Erik Peper of San Francisco State University says that overuse of smartphones works like any other kind of substance abuse.

Peper said, ‘The behavioural addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief – gradually.’


Peper and colleagues surveyed 135 volunteers and found that heavy smartphone users are unable to focus on one task, and are lonely, depressed and anxious.

Peper says that the problem is exacerbated by the constant alerts of social media apps – which plug into ancient mechanisms which protected our ancestors from animal attack.

Peper said that social media companies are driven by ‘More eyeballs, more clicks, more money.’

He said, ‘But now we are hijacked by those same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive — for the most trivial pieces of information.’

Peper advises users to turn off alerts where possible, and to only check email and social media at certain set times.

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