Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) should be recognised as a condition, say scientists, who claim that teenagers who spend too much time online display nerve damage similar to that caused by cocaine and cannabis.

The study, carried out in China, found that people experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when they were separated from their computers. Symptoms included tremors, obsessive thoughts, and involuntary typing movements of the fingers.

Previous studies have shown that alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, methamphetamine and ketamine can cause abnormal white matter structure in the orbito-frontal regions of the brain, said the researchers.

Now it appears that too much internet use may lead to the same changes.

“Our finding that IAD is associated with impaired white matter integrity in the orbito-frontal regions is consistent with these previous results,” the scientists said.