Shock Therapy for “Internet Addicts”

August 1, 2009 at 1:28 am

   The Guardian Uk released an article about China’s fear of internet addiction and their treatment for the social ailment — electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which is just another term for shock treatment. I’ll let the article speak for itself. Click here.

“I struggled and tried to get up and they said it meant I still did not agree to stay so they gave me more shocks for another half an hour … I agreed to stay because I really couldn’t stand any more of it.”

   It should be noted that the clinic has since been made to halt its punitive shock procedures. Here is an article from China Daily.

“The Ministry said the therapy, which was administered by a clinic in Linyi, Shandong province, has not been proven to be safe.”

“We have no clue whether this freaky treatment has side-effects” 

Also, a follow-up article from the Guardian UK which detailed what some of the many, apparently shock-worthy, infractions were.

“An earlier report by the newspaper Information Times claimed patients received ECT if they broke any of the centre’s rules, which included eating chocolate, locking the bathroom door, taking pills before a meal and sitting on Yang’s chair without permission. It said parents had to sign a contract before admission acknowledging that their child would be given ECT.”

My commentary on this will be as limited as the time I have right now, but I thought this was worth mentioning for a few reasons. I think it is particularly important to question clinically how shocking the brain is supposed to “correct” a perceived addiction to anything. It is such an uncontrollable process to apply to a system as complex and fragile as the human brain. How is it that it can be applied fairly uniformly for use in depression, bipolar disorder, addiction (and who knows what else) interchangeably? Is there a difference between corrective psychiatric procedure and aversion therapy and do we care? Closing one institution for its abuse of any “medical” practice doesn’t address the social dynamic that has an institution like that coming into being in the first place, nor does it address the family dynamic that has people lining up their fearful and protesting children to have their forming brains shocked.

   In our Amerocentric western culture, I’m sure we’d love to believe that we’ve long ago abandoned such practices or that it’s only in use in “other” less worldly and civilized countries. This couldn’t be further from the truth and we do know that “this freaky treatment has side-effects.” Here, ECT is performed on approximately 100,000 people each year despite its Class III designation which is applied to medical devices that have not been proven to be safe or effective. What this means is that the FDA does not govern the use of ECT machines. The procedure is performed on uninformed and unwilling “patients” more often than we’d ever like to believe and its use spans virtually every age group.

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