Castle Craig, a rehab center in Scotland, has been a top-rated alcohol, sex addiction, and drug rehab center for years. Recently, they’ve also begun treating Bitcoin addicts.
According to a Motherboard documentary, the program has been running for about a year. The patient most focused on in the video said that his addiction to Bitcoin news and trading led to other dependencies, including drugs and alcohol.
“If you’re predisposed to addiction, it will just grasp you and it won’t let you go. And it will destroy your life,” says Tony Marini, a therapist at Castle Craig.
Marini says that Castle Craig is one of the first rehab centers to recognize the addictive nature of cryptocurrency. If you’ve been in the space any length of time, you know what he’s talking about. Even casual holders of cryptocurrency find price news irresistible.
Motherboard focuses on a patient called Mark. Mark says he’s been a gambling addict since he was about 13. He would bet on pool games at the pub with his father. “It didn’t matter if I won or lost,” he says. The “rush” of taking the risk was his addiction. He says he came into contact with Bitcoin when he ordered drugs from the dark web.
About $9,000 in bitcoins were left when he stopped using the dark web. He didn’t use it again for a while, but when the market started taking off, he noticed he had over AUD$2 million. This is where his gambling addiction took over. Like many, he identified the crypto bubble, and he began placing shorts. Big shorts.
Mark claims to have made another AUD$500,000 by shorting Bitcoin. During the height of the bull run, Mark got very little sleep from the end of November into December. He says he was neglecting his wife and children as a result. Addicted to news about cryptocurrency, Mark spent all his time obsessing over price movements. On Christmas Day 2017, when the price of Bitcoin closed at around USD$14,000, Mark checked into an emergency room. He believed he had lost touch with reality.
Mark admits that Bitcoin addiction was just one more “in a pile” of addictions he already suffered from. Predisposition to addiction is of keen importance.
Taking an active interest in something doesn’t make you an addict. The amount of people who use the internet more than 12 hours per day is probably higher than it was ten years ago when it would have been considered an overt addiction. Now the internet is ubiquitous, and not using it seems odder than using it a lot.
Cryptocurrency is nowhere near as ubiquitous as the internet. Therefore, being focused on it for as much time as Mark says he was could definitely make him an addict. A successful one, if you consider the amount of money he made. But he identified that it was destroying his personal life and made a conscious effort to seek help.
Tony Marini talks about the addictive nature of volatile crypto markets. He says extreme volatility plays on the dopamine in the human brain. Like most rehab coaches, he has a much more conservative opinion of what constitutes an addiction.