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Medical professionals: Video games like Fortnite can be as addictive as heroin

Some parents tell NBC Charlotte Fortnite has taken over their kids' lives, and they need help.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Medical professionals say it can be as addictive as heroin and get in the way of your child’s brain development.

We're talking about the video game, Fortnite. Some parents tell NBC Charlotte it’s taken over their homes and their kids' lives -- and made moms like Maureen Link desperate.

“I would describe it as obsessive. It’s all they wanted to do. They didn’t want to do anything else, didn’t want to do homework, didn’t want to do anything outside the house," said Link.

The nurse said her sons, ages 11 and 13 were addicted to Fortnite.

“It very quickly became a problem in our home," Link said.

In fact, medical experts say it can actually be an addiction. Chris McCarthy is a counselor who specializes in working with teenage boys.

“The thing about these games is it gets their dopamine systems involved releases addictive chemicals, very similar to a drug addiction. It literally causes cravings they can’t live without it they just get obsessed with it," McCarthy said.

Link said once she realized it wasn’t a discipline or entertainment issue, but rather a health issue, she knew needed to take action.

“I was setting my kids up for failure. I was trying to get them to follow the rules and them to self-police," she said.

McCarthy says if your child is playing more than an hour a day, it’s time for you as the parent to pull the plug – cold turkey. And it won’t be easy.

“It’s not like they’re going to go through true detox, not going to have headaches. They’re just going to be irritable, they’re going to be anxious, complaining, like, I don’t know what to do.”

Link says she went through all of that with her boys.

“Four to six weeks of a very difficult transition," she said.

She got help from other moms who were facing down Fortnite. Melanie Hempe founded the group Families Managing Media.

“Fortnite has really taken over. We suggest you take a month off, take a break, recalibrate your child’s habits. They might have forgotten about soccer, however much they love to draw or music,” said Hempe.

Link took away more than a month of Fortnite; she took it away permanently.

“There's no question for me; we’ve made the right decision for our kids," she said.

It's important to make sure even if your kids are playing video games like Fortnite, they mix it with other things they like such as outdoor activities

Doctors also say it’s important for all families to have some sort of media plan that limits all screen time – from YouTube to phones to TV and, of course, games. You can find more help here.

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