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China bans shocking treatment for Internet addiction

China bans shocking treatment for Internet addiction

Chinese doctors can no longer try to shock a patient's Internet addiction away. China's Ministry of Health has banned the practice of electroshock therapy to cure Internet addiction, according to a July 14 Reuters article.

"Electroshock therapy for Internet addiction... has no foundation in clinical research or evidence and therefore is not appropriate for clinical application," read a statement on the ministry's website.

The ban comes after one psychiatrist's use of electroshock therapy attracted media scritiny when former patients wrote about it online. Practicing in Linyi, Shandong Province, Dr. Yang Yongxin, also known as Uncle Yang, ran a boot camp-like facility called the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre, according to Reuters. More than 3,000 young people have gone through a four-month program at the facility.

At least one source reports electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was used as punishment. According to a June 3 China Daily News website article, patients would be shocked for such offenses as sitting in the doctor's chair without permission, eating chocolate and taking pills before a meal. A current of up to 20 milliamperes was reportedly administered. One milliampere is the minimum current a human being can feel.

As well as shock therapy, the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre used psychotropic drugs and strict, military style discipline. Contact with the outside world was prohibited. The cost of the program was 5,500 yuan ($805 US) a month, according to Reuters. The newspaper also stated that none of the seven staff members at the facility were qualified psychotherapists.

With more than 1.3 billion people, it is no surprise the world's most populated country also has the most Internet users. Almost 300 million Chinese residents are online as of the end of 2008, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. According to the Reuters story, Chinese young people turn to the net for an escape from extremely high parental expectations. Internet cafes, which are known as Web bars, are very popular.

For about a year, the Chinese government has campaigned against Internet addiction. The government, according to Reuters, feels the Internet hurts young people's studies and damages family life.

The first Internet treatment clinic was established by the Chinese government in Beijing in 2004. Now there are more than 200 organizations offering treatment programs for Internet disorders, the Reuters article stated. Most of Yang's patients were forced to enter the program, according to the China Youth Daily.

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