Cryptocurrency: A Payment For Treatment or a Reason For Treatment?

Do residential treatment facilities accept cash, charge, insurance – or cryptocurrency? Despite cryptocurrency’s newfound popularity, hopefully that last form of payment is not an option. Why? Because it may be the cause for treatment. 

Cryptocurrency may be joining the ranks of cocaine, methamphetamines, gambling and alcohol. For some, it is just as addictive.

Is This Really an Issue?

Well, it’s widespread enough that Scotland is now home to a hospital that offers residential treatment for dependency on cryptocurrency.  

The center, Castle Craig Hospital, is the first of its kind, but it likely won’t be the last. Dr. Timothy Fong, associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA, explains why. “You could replace the words ‘digital currency’ with ‘crack cocaine,’ methamphetamine,’ ‘marijuana,’ or ‘gambling,’ and you’ll see some of those same kind of ways people talk about it,” he noted. 

His comments don’t come out of left field. Experts in behavioral addiction admit that digital currency trading can result in behaviors similar to online gambling. Users become obsessed with fluctuating values, watching minute-by-minute changes, and waiting for the next increase (which provides the high).  

Castle Craig Gambling Therapist Chris Burn explains, “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.” 

And this bubble may have millions trapped inside. The concept of cryptocurrency addiction is still too new to be verified with extensive research, but around 13 million people currently trade in the system worldwide. How many of these individuals have been sucked into a downward spiral of addictive trading that has spun their lives out of control? 

Scotland’s center could be the beginning of a trend to serve these individuals. The group-centered treatment allows those struggling with cryptocurrency to connect and share their stories. The first step at the facility is to get patients into group therapy, where they share their life stories. As they hear what others are going through, they realize they are not alone.  

The Flip Side 

Of course, there are two sides to every coin, even when it’s digital.  

Some believe the concept of cryptocurrency addiction might be a bit of a stretch. Their argument: Just because trading in cryptocurrency activates our reward center in the brain doesn’t mean we can become addicted to it. Yes, it can influence our behavior, but so can anything that is naturally rewarding, from a game of baseball to a clean house to an ocean view. There simply isn’t enough proof to regard cryptocurrency addiction as an actual condition.  

Admittedly, more research is needed. However, to the patients at Castle Craig Hospital, the condition is certainly real enough.

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