China Cracks Down on Dubious Internet Addiction Therapy

Rich oversees Science's international coverage.

BEIJING—The Chinese government has banned the controversial application of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for so-called Internet addiction.

Although there is no meeting of the minds on whether Internet addiction is a genuine disorder, Chinese researchers have sought to put diagnosis and treatment on a more solid footing. Casting a shadow over legitimate clinical practice and research, a clinic in Shandong Province in eastern China had gained notoriety for applying electric shocks to unanesthetized teenagers whose parents had admitted them to the clinic against their will.

In an 8 July policy letter to Shandong’s health department, China’s health ministry ordered Shandong Province to cease such a clinical application of ECT. The ministry explained that it had convened an expert board, which concluded that ECT “does not show any clear safety and validity to treat Internet addiction” because of a “lack of scientific support from clinical studies and evidence-based trials.”

The health ministry did not rule out future use of ECT for Internet addiction and left the door open to clinical trials on “associated therapies” as long as such trials are free of charge for subjects and obtain informed consent.

Posted in Health, Asia