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China halts memory-wiping electric shocks for net addicts

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The Chinese government has declared that electric shock treatment is not a suitable therapy for youths allegedly addicted to the internet.

China has been grappling with the scourge of internet addiction in recent years, with youths keeling over in internet cafes due to excessive gameplay, or killing each other over virtual world slights that have spilled into the real world and suchlike.

Perhaps inevitably, some of the solutions have appeared either harsh or bizarre to western sensibilities, not least the therapies dished out by one Doctor Yang Yongxin in Shandong province.

"Uncle Yang" as he's known has apparently been happily prescribing a combination of electro-shock courses alongside psychotropic drugs and boot camp type exercises to his young charges, and charging their parents $805 a month, Reuters reports.

But the country's Ministry of Health has come down hard on Yang, declaring that "Electroshock therapy for Internet addiction... has no foundation in clinical research or evidence and therefore is not appropriate for clinical application".

Quite apart from the rather fluid definition of what constitutes "internet addiction", electro-shock treatment - or electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) - is usually seen as something of a last resort treatment for major, deep depression. In the West it is carried out in highly controlled circumstances, not least because it is linked to short term memory loss.

Reuters doesn't note the details of Uncle Yang's treatment regime. However, it does note that, according to the ministry of health, neither Yang or his colleagues are qualified psychotherapists.

Yang won't be the only one looking to reassess his treatment offerings. Beijing's's Military General Hospital included mild shock treatment as part of its own net detox programme when it launched last year. ®

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