China's Ministry of Health has shut down a controversial program that used electroshock therapy to treat teenage internet and videogame addicts.
Offered by a clinic in the city of Linyi, the program used electroshock therapy along with "important medical and psychological elements" in a four month course designed to treat internet and videogame addiction in teenagers. The course cost $878 per month and parents had to sign a contract acknowledging that their children would be subjected to electric shocks as part of their treatment. Over 3000 teens were "tricked or forced into" the program, according to the China Daily, which said they were considered cured or "reborn" once they admitted their addiction.
The program came to light when former patients blogged about their experiences, claiming that while they were being treated they were not allowed to talk about anything but overcoming their addiction, they were forced to kneel in front of their parents to demonstrate obedience and they had to confess to "wrongdoing." The electric shocks were applied to patients who broke any of the program's 86 rules, which included such things as locking the bathroom door or sitting in a chair belonging to Dr. Yang Yongxin, the head of the program.
This sort of "therapy" may be shocking to Westerners but Kong Lingzhong, editor of an internet addiction portal, said there is still "fierce debate" in China over the use of electroshock therapy to cure internet addiction. "We have no clue whether this freaky treatment has side-effects," Kong admitted.