A new clinic has opened in China to care for young people who are addicted to online gaming, according to an Associated Press report.
The clinic, which is officially licensed by the Chinese government, is located near the Beijing Military Central Hospital. The patients - most of whom are between the ages of 14 and 24 - are looked after by a team of 23 nurses and doctors. Many say that their addiction to gaming grew out of a wish to relieve everyday stress and pressure from parents to perform well academically.
"All the children here have left school because they are playing games or in chat rooms every day," said clinic director Dr. Tao Ran.
"They are suffering from depression, nervousness, fear and unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation. The also have sleep disorders, the shakes and numbness in their hands."
Treatment begins at 6am every day and takes the form of therapy sessions, medication, acupuncture and exercise. Patients also spend time hooked up to a machine that stimulates nerve endings, receiving 30 volt electric shocks to pressure points, and are intravenously fed a clear liquid said to "adjust the unbalanced status of brain secretions." Officials refused to reveal any more information about the medication.
A stay at the clinic costs $48 per day - more than twice the average weekly wage for a Beijing citizen. The course of treatment generally lasts for between 10-15 days.
Dr Tao, who has worked in psychiatry for 20 years, estimates that up to 2.5 million Chinese suffer from "Internet addiction" - but some suggest the size of the problem has been exaggerated.
"As the number of Netizens grows, the number of addicted poeple will grow as well, but we should not worry about the issue too much," said Kuang Wenbo, a professor of mass media at Beijing's Renmin University.
"The young men at the age of growing up have their own problems. Even if there was no Internet they would get addicted to other things."