Who would have thought cryptocurrency could become an addiction? Apparently, it is, and in fact, it can be just as addicting as gambling, drugs, or alcohol.
This truly is not a joking matter. Just ask Tony Marini, a therapist who works at Scotland’s famous Castle Craig, also known as the world’s first rehabilitation clinic that focuses on treating cryptocurrency addiction.
“We’re not hearing about the people that have lost lots of money,” he explained to Decrypt. “People are so ashamed. They feel so guilty. They don’t want to be talking about it.”
This cryptocurrency addiction trend is one that has only been getting worse. Inquiries into seeking help have increased substantially over the past year, says Marini. It’s not just the addiction Marini and the Castle Craig staff have had to deal with, but the losses that come with it.
Some cryptos have lost substantial amounts of money simply by losing the passwords to their crypto wallets. This cuts off the investor from their funds, sometimes in upwards of millions of dollars worth of crypto. This devastating reality, says Marini, has led to suicidal thoughts by a number of patients.
Castle Craig is an eighteenth-century castle that can be found around 25 miles from Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh. Marini, himself a recovering gambling, drug, and alcohol addict, says that his experiences have shown him that crypto trading holds strong similarities to gambling addictions. He says it is also because of his own personal experiences that he is the very first therapist to recognize the pattern.
“If you say to somebody doing crypto, ‘so you’re occasionally gambling,’ they’re gonna go ‘no, I’m not.’ So take out the word gambling and say ‘occasionally trading,’” Marini says.
Castle Craig, along with Marini, has been treating those with a cryptocurrency addiction since 2018. Marini says many of these cases also coincide with alcohol or drug addiction. He notes that the dark web also has a hand in patients’ beginning addiction.
“Commonly, people start because they want to buy stuff off the dark web,” Marini explains. “And the only way to do that is with cryptocurrency. The biggest problem is this cross addiction [with crypto] starting—through drugs and alcohol.”
Marini actually got started before Castle Craig opened their clinic. Since 2017, Marini has treated 15 clients for their addiction. While many patients at the Castle are there for their drugs or alcohol addiction, treatment often shows that some of these patients have other “behavioral obsessions.” This is where crypto addiction comes into play.
Patients are held to strict rules when they arrive at Castle Craig. Because of the drug and alcohol issues, the only “vices” allowed are caffeine and nicotine. As far as their access to cryptocurrency, residents/patients are only allowed their cell phones for a total of two hours per week.
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When patients first come to him, Marini says they are always on their phone or their laptops. They are constantly watching cryptocurrency prices rise and fall. Taking these devices from them causes a bit of withdrawal. Marini says he sees sweaty palms, anxiety, and even panic attacks.
Treatment at Castle Craig is not cheap. The website doesn’t offer numbers, but one current patient who is on his 58th day of treatment has had financial help from the British National Health Service to see him through. The plan this patient follows is based on the Minnesota Model 12-step program that AA patients commonly use.
So, how do you know if your cryptocurrency affiliation is turning into an addiction? According to the Castle Craig website, the many patients they have seen justify gambling on cryptocurrency markets by calling it “investing.” Rather than looking at it as something like gambling on horses, they feel it is the wise investment thing to do.
But cryptocurrency markets are extremely volatile and anyone with a cell phone can easily get roped in as access to the global markets are but a click away. Prices update every few seconds so watching prices move up and down can be a compelling and many times addictive way of life.
China may be on to something having banned all forms of cryptocurrency.
Just know, if you feel yourself walking down that road, there is help available. It’s only a phone call, or even an overseas trip, away.