With stories of obsessed online games players from the Far East becoming a mainstay of video game news, the first officially licensed clinic for Internet addiction has been established in China, with a majority of its patients addicted to online game playing, according to an Associated Press report.
The government-owned clinic began taking patients in March, from its location on the campus of the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital. A dozen nurses and eleven doctors care for the patients, mostly youths aged 14 to 24 who, according to Chinese authorities, have lost sleep, weight and friends after becoming addicted to video games and online use.
Many patients suggest that their obsession began with a desire to escape day-to-day stress, especially pressure from parents to excel in school.
"All the children here have left school because they are playing games or in chat rooms everyday," says the clinic's director, Dr. Tao Ran. "They are suffering from depression, nervousness, fear and unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation. They also have sleep disorders, the shakes and numbness in their hands."
The clinic has established a standard diagnostic test to determine whether someone is addicted, then uses a combination of therapy sessions, medication, acupuncture and sports like swimming and basketball to ease patients back into normal lives. Patients normally stay between ten and fifteen days at the equivalent of $48 a day, compared to an average city wage of $20 a week.
The clinic estimates that up to 2.5 million Chinese suffer from Internet addiction, although these figures are disputed. According to government figures, China has the world's second-largest online population, after the United States, of 94 million people.
Internet use for business and education has been encouraged by the Chinese government, as video games have been accused of "eroding public morality", with Internet cafes regularly facing crackdowns and significant fines.