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First treatment centre for cryptocurrency addiction

FILE PHOTO: Representation of the Bitcoin virtual currency standing on the PC motherboard is seen in this illustration picture, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

People hooked on trading cryptocurrencies are to be offered treatment to deal with their addiction in the first centre of its kind in the Scottish Borders.

Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire has created a course of residential treatment for "crypto addicts" to deal with the underlying issues and learn to live without it.

Experts say 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.

The West Linton facility already runs drug and alcohol addiction programmes, but said it has now established the first course to treat cryptocurrency addiction by using techniques found in gambling addiction programmes.

Castle Craig said there are no figures for the number of people addicted to cryptocurrency, but there are around 13 million people across the world trading in the system.

Chris Burn, a gambling therapist at Castle Craig Hospital, 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.

He 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," therapist 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."

Main photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

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