First internet addiction rehab clinic opens in Algeria

First internet addiction rehab clinic opens in Algeria

Health experts at the new clinic agree that internet overuse has emerged as a national issue.

Constantine, Algeria – “When talking about addiction, people usually think about tobacco, drugs or alcohol dependency,” said Dr Hakima Boualem, head of the medical staff of the addiction treatment centre of Bachir Mentouri clinic in Constantine.

“But, for some, the fight is with internet – especially the ‘magic blue’ of Facebook.”

Last May, addiction specialists and psychologists at the Bachir Mentouri clinic, which is 450km to the east of the capital Algiers, rolled out a rehab programme designed for compulsive users of technology, particularly social networks.This is the first clinic in Algeria –  and in Africa – aiming to cure Internet fanatics

Algeria has joined a growing list of countries to open rehab centres helping those who suffer from a web obsession. In South Korea, home of the world’s most connected population, digital detox camps have already treated thousands of children. According to South Korea’s Ministry of Family, 14 percent of South Korean teenagers are addicted to the internet.

Unlike South Korea, Algeria has been much slower to embrace the internet, launching long-awaited 3G service only about three years ago. Algeria’s internet penetration rate remains relatively low, standing at 32.8 percent in a country of 40 million people, according to this year’s State of Broadband Report.

Today, the North African country counts more than nine million Facebook users, according to Algerian digital marketing analysts. But this increasing use of the internet has come at a price.

“Algeria is experiencing what developing countries have been facing for a few years: the flip side of the internet,” Dr Raouf Bougouffa, director of the Bachir Mentouri clinic’s rehab department, told Al Jazeera. “An increasing number of internet users are losing control.”

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