China Bans Electro-shock Treatment for Internet Addiction

China has banned the use of shock therapy to treat Internet addiction, citing uncertainty in the safety and effectiveness of the practice after criticism in the local media.

The Ministry of Health announcement followed recent media reports about a controversial psychiatrist in Linyi, Shandong Province, who administered electric currents to nearly 3,000 teenagers in an attempt to rid them of their Internet habit, Reuters reports.

A statement on the Chinese health ministry's Web site said the practice had no medical foundation and forbid its clinical use. The order banned the practice nationwide but specifically mentioned the notorious hospital in eastern Shandong province.

Calls to the Shandong hospital went unanswered Wednesday morning, but a hospital spokeswoman last week said "sensationalized" media reports had already led it to cease the shock treatment. The shocks were meant to cause subjects to associate a negative result with Internet use, according to the hospital. Subjects were forced to admit to faults while receiving the shocks, some Internet user accounts said, Computerworld reports.

Meanwhile Tao Ran, who runs a well-known centre for curing internet addiction in the suburbs of Beijing, said that his clinic treated about 200 patients a month for addiction, 80% of whom were aged 15 to 18 and 90% of whom were male, reports.