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August 6, 2009

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Call for Net addiction treatment regulation

CHINESE medical experts yesterday called for specific laws and regulations on the treatment of Internet addiction, as the investigation of a teenager allegedly beaten to death by trainers at a rehabilitation center in southern China is still underway.

"The market of Internet addiction treatment in China is in a total mess due to lack of diagnostic standards and treatment guidelines," said Tao Ran, director of the country's first Internet addiction clinic under Beijing's Military General Hospital.

"The government should end this as soon as possible."

On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was reported dead, 10 hours after his parents sent him to a local summer camp to cure his Internet addiction.

Several injuries were found on Deng Senshan's body. Four trainers at the camp were detained in connection with beating the victim to death.

"The tragedy is not accidental," Tao said. "Most rehab camps adopt military training, but many teenage Internet addicts cannot handle it well. Thus it comes with conflicts and violence. A similar case also happened two years ago in Chongqing Municipality."

Tao has long insisted that Internet addiction is a disease that needs medical treatment rather than military training or education. His clinic has treated about 5,000 Internet-addicted youths since it was founded in 2004.

According to Tao, medical experts attending a meeting held by the Health Ministry in June all agreed that Internet addiction was a kind of mental illness in a broad sense.

"Those measures including education program and military training widely popular among nationwide rehab camps are insufficient and ineffective," he said.

"But the public, especially parents, often have the wrong idea and they go after these camps blindly. That's why we are in urgent need of regulations and standards to curb the disorder."

Last month, the Health Ministry banned the use of electroshock therapy to treat Internet addiction.


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