UK hospital launches rehab programme for bitcoin addiction

Experts at Scottish rehab centre say crypto trading holds appeal for problem gamblers

Caitlin Morrison
Tuesday 29 May 2018 10:52 BST
What is Bitcoin and why is its price so high?

A UK hospital is offering treatment for bitcoin addicts, aimed at helping people who have developed a compulsion to trade the cryptocurrency.

Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland, which runs rehabilitation courses for people with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, has launched a programme after receiving requests to treat similar problems with cryptocurrency.

According to experts, the trading of digital currencies or assets such as bitcoin can become a behavioural addiction, similar to online gambling, with some users obsessively following minute-by-minute fluctuations in prices. Around 13 million people trade bitcoin across the world.

Cryptocurrency users can get hooked by the volatile fluctuation of prices online which creates a ‘high’ when they buy or trade a winning currency, Castle Craig said in a statement. “This can be exciting but also addictive and, like gambling addiction, can be financially disastrous.”

Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Addiction to cryptocurrencies is a sub-type of online day-trading addiction. I see these as akin to gambling addiction.”

Chris Burn, a gambling therapist at Castle Craig, said: “The high risk, fluctuating cryptocurrency market appeals to the problem gambler.

"It provides excitement and an escape from reality. Bitcoin, for example, has been heavily traded and huge gains and losses were made. It's a classic bubble situation."

Some treatments at the centre will be led by Tony Marini, a former gambling and cocaine addict, who said introducing a life structure is key for addicts.

"Having been through it myself, my experience of addiction gives me insight and empathy towards others who have the same problem," Mr Marini said.

"I see cryptocurrency trading as a way for people to escape from themselves, into another world, because they don't like the world they're in.

"The first stage of treatment is to join other addicts in group therapy and share their life stories. This helps them identify with each other and realise that they're not alone."

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