Scottish rehab center offers therapy to bitcoin addicts


Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland, which runs rehabilitation courses for people with drug and gambling addictions, is now expanding its services to those who are addicted to cryptocurrency trading. 

Experts have likened the symptoms of cryptocurrency trading to those experienced by online gambling addicts, in which some traders obsessively follow fluctuations in the prices of currencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, ripple, and litecoin.

“For many people, [cryptocurrencies] seem like an easy way to get rich. Like all forms of gambling, it can be highly addictive. To Castle Craig it looks like another form of gambling addiction,” said Castle Craig in a statement.

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Victoria McCann, Castle Craig’s communications executive, told WikiTribune that a typical intensive treatment programme lasts for 6 weeks. Prices for treatments are £2,975 ($3,963) per week for a multi-occupancy room, £3,850 ($5,129) for a twin room, and £4,970 ($6,621) for a single room for the residential rehab treatment clinic.

WikiTribune spoke with Chris Burns, a gambling therapist at the hospital, on the dangers of cryptocurrency addictions and what the center provides. The short Q&A has been edited for clarity.

WikiTribune: Isn’t cryptocurrency-addiction just gambling addiction?

Burns: Cryptocurrency day-trading is similar to other gambling addictions but is particularly dangerous because large sums of money are often involved. It’s a volatile market with exciting price movements.

Unlike regular stock trading it’s barely regulated, often poorly understood but exciting because of the big fluctuations in price that occur.

People may experience fear of missing out (FOMO) which adds to the hype. Thus there is a situation where people are trading on speculation rather than on a basis of sound investment judgement. Also, the activity is available 24/7 which is attractive to compulsive gamblers.

And if it is, why have a clinic specifically for crypto-addicts? Because if the symptoms are similar, then surely so are the treatments?

We do not have a clinic specifically for crypto-addicts. This particular aspect of the story has somehow been distorted by the media. Our treatment is essentially similar to that for most forms of gambling addiction.

However, perhaps more so than most forms, there is a lot of denial and unrealistic thinking surrounding cryptocurrency trading. This denial and unrealistic thinking on the part of addicted traders needs to be addressed in treatment, together with practical measures such as handing control of finances to another person, severe restriction on computer use and self-exclusion from certain websites.

Of course this process is applicable for most gamblers of any type, but the nature of cryptocurrency addiction and the potential for extreme negative consequences – huge losses, severe depression even suicidal ideation –make this especially important.

Where is the line drawn between investment and gambling in this context?

Loss (or profit) is indeed part of any investment. For a compulsive gambler, the loss or profit becomes less important than the ability to keep repeating the addictive behaviour (e.g. placing a bet or making a trade), for as long as possible.

Of course the negative consequence of making big losses will usually precipitate a crisis which will force an addicted trader to face reality and perhaps do something about the addiction.

However, the making of profits can be just as harmful for an addict in a different way, because it gives the illusion that everything is fine; whereas in reality that person may have become isolated from friends and family, unable or uninterested in socializing, work or routine exercise activities, and perhaps unhealthy physically and mentally with anxiety and poor sleep patterns. The addicted trader may be unaware of all this for a long time.

This differs from conventional investment which is normally research based. Investors, as opposed to gamblers, do not ‘chase losses’ or take big risks in the hope of a big win.

How do you diagnose someone addicted to cryptocurrency trading?

The typical symptoms are:

Spending a great deal of time on the activity of trading in cryptocurrency, checking prices and thinking about the activity – so that other occupations such as work, socialising and exercise do not get done.

  • Debts and financial problems
  • Lying to friends and family about one’s activities/problems
  • Mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and depression
  • Anxiety, leading to physical symptoms such as sweating and tremors, poor sleep patterns.
  • Unrealistic views and behaviours such as being ‘lucky’, chasing losses
  • Attempting to control the activity without success.

What have patients told you about their experiences with cryptocurrency addiction?

From our observations, people may begin trading in cryptocurrencies as a leisure activity, very part time, but become hooked on the activity because of its addictive nature

Patients would present to us for treatment suffering serious negative consequences of some kind – perhaps threat of bankruptcy, extreme isolation, depression or even suicidal ideation.

What sort of services do you offer?

We offer a Twelve Step Recovery programme together with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with the goal of lasting abstinence through personal change.

Castle Craig is a therapeutic community where patients work with therapists and in peer groups to share experiences and learn new attitudes and habits.

Group and individual therapy sessions take place daily as well as many forms of complementary therapy.

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