Tao’s government-owned clinic, which began taking patients in March, occupies the top floor of a two-story building on a quiet, tree-lined street on the sprawling campus of the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital in the heart of the Chinese capital.
A dozen nurses and 11 doctors care for the patients, mostly youths aged 14 to 24 who have lost sleep, weight and friends after countless hours in front of the computer, often playing video games with others online.
Some come voluntarily, while others are checked in by their parents. Many say their online obsessions helped them escape day-to-day stress, especially pressure from parents to excel in school.
Some can’t stop playing games, while the older ones tend to be addicted to online chats with the opposite sex, Tao says. Others are fixated on designing violent games.
“I wasn’t normal,” said a 20-year-old man from Beijing who used to spend at least 10 hours a day in front of the screen playing hack-and-slash games like Diablo.
“In school I didn’t pay attention when teachers were talking,” he said. “All I could do was think about playing the next game. Playing made me happy, I forgot my problems.”
I’m not too sure about the therapy, though:
Tao’s team has put together 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.
They usually stay 10 to 15 days, at $48 a day — a high price in China, where the average city dweller’s weekly income is just $20.
The routine begins around 6 a.m. and includes sessions on a machine that stimulates nerve impulses with 30-volt charges to pressure points.
Some patients receive a clear fluid through intravenous drips said to “adjust the unbalanced status of brain secretions,” according to one nurse. Officials would not give any other details about the medication.
Patients also nap, write diary entries or play cards. Their rooms are sunny, each decorated with artificial flowers, Winnie the Pooh comforters and a 17-inch television.
First: What is in that IV?
Second: A TV in the room? Isn’t that just fostering another addiction?
Third: I’m kind of scared of the whole “30-volt charges to pressure points” bit…
I’d be interested to hear more about that addiction diagnostic test, too.