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Net addicts shock therapy unwired

THE Ministry of Health has banned a controversial aversion therapy that uses electric shocks to cure Internet addicts.

The ministry published the order on its Website yesterday. Media has reported that the treatment was being offered at a hospital in Lingyi City of east China's Shandong Province, today's China Youth Daily reported.

Experts from a team organized by the ministry to research the therapy said it was not certain that the therapy was safe and effective in treating Web addiction.

There were no reports of this therapy being used effectively anywhere else.

The ministry ordered the Shandong provincial health authority to suspend its clinical licenses for the therapy.

If any institutes want to apply for licenses for scientific research, they must apply to the health authority. Patients who have participated should not be charged.

Electric shock therapy is a type of aversion therapy used to treat psychiatric disorders, psychiatrists said.

But Yang Yongxin - dubbed "national Web addiction expert" by addicts' families - is the first to use it to treat Web addiction.

At his center at Lingyi Psychiatric Hospital, nearly 3,000 young people have undergone the treatment, earlier media reports said.

Electrodes are attached to the patient's hands or temples and electrical shocks of between 1 and 5 milliamperes are administered. Patients are also treated with psychiatric medications.

The electric shocks, although painful, do not affect the brain and do not damage the body, according to Yang.

The shocks were used as a punishment for anyone who broke any of the 86 rules Yang designed. Yang would administer shocks for patients who went on-line for lengthy periods, drank coke or locked themselves in the bathroom.

This behavior when linked with the discomfort of the electric shock, will later be associated with unpleasant sensations so that patients will stop their errant behavior, he explained.

He said the shocks were randomly administered with one or two at the most per patient.

While most of the parents of addicts embraced the therapy, deep concerns have been expressed by medical experts who say it is unclear if Web addiction is a psychiatric problem or not.

Shanghai has not introduced this sort of therapy to treat Web addiction, Shanghai Mental Health Center said.

The center uses psychological counseling and medication in its treatment.


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