Is there really such a thing as cryptocurrency addiction?

Is there really such a thing as cryptocurrency addiction?

I have always thought that buying cryptocurrency is not like investing, which is usually promoted, and more like gambling. There are the promises of get-rich-quicks, salivating trading platforms and the unpredictability of the markets.

It wasn’t until I hosted the FT’s latest Tonic podcast series that I realized how deep and disturbing the similarities are. “Sceptic’s Guide to Crypto” has taken me on a wild ride, from mono-obsessive tech billionaires in Virginia to no-nonsense ranchers in Wyoming. But on the Scottish border, about 20 miles south of Edinburgh, I came across Craig Castle, an imposing 18th-century mansion that has been used as a rehabilitation center for more than three decades.

Castle Craig treats all types of addiction, from alcoholism to compulsive gambling, but in 2016, it became the first rehab clinic to diagnose and treat crypto addiction. Since then, I’ve worked with nearly 250 patients, and the numbers are increasing every year.

The man in charge of the crypto clinic is Tony Marini, a 57-year-old Scots-Italian who uses the same 12-step program to treat gambling. Marini, himself a recovering former gambler and alcoholic and cocaine addict now of 17 years, told me that once he started researching cryptocurrency after that first patient in 2016, he got busy.

“I found myself spending hours researching various cryptocurrencies, coming back to check prices,” he says. “I was obsessed with it…my mind was transported to the exact same place where gambling would take me.” He almost put some money into it himself, before realizing the perilous path he was on.

Of course, not everyone is addicted to cryptocurrency trading, but it’s not hard to see why it’s so addictive, with its powerful mix of volatile price movements, a market that never sleeps, and a seemingly endless supply of crypto tokens to bet on – over 21,000 at last count. – An active online community.

But cryptocurrency has a problem that gambling does not have, which is clearly categorized as such: people often do not know what they are getting into for themselves, even after they become addicted. There is no specific body to regulate it. There is no “becryptoaware.org” website. Finally, Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency is tightening its rules on crypto ads popping up everywhere, but these won’t take effect until next year.

“People don’t think they have a problem with encryption and that’s the biggest problem,” Marigny says. “People who use cryptocurrency don’t know they are playing… because it is unregulated.”

Most of Marini’s crypto patients come with other addictions – usually, cocaine and amphetamines, which help users stay awake playing the markets, and they won’t realize they are addicted to cryptocurrencies until they start discussing their behavior patterns.

One former patient, who was already recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, describes setting several alarms on his phone so he could wake up all night to check cryptocurrency prices. He soon found himself relapsing into alcohol and cocaine. Marigny sees this as another example of cross-addiction, fueling another addiction.

I usually enjoy a kind of vague enjoyment of mocking the toxicity of crypto culture, especially when it is directed against a “no-coin” like myself. But stories like this don’t make me happy. Cryptocurrency may be worn in memes and Dogecoin T-shirts, but it’s time we start seeing it for what it is: a dangerous form of gambling.

Jemima Kelly is a columnist for the Financial Times

#cryptocurrency #addiction

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *