On the Spanish Island of Mallorca, a luxury rehabilitation center named "The Balance" has added treating crypto addiction to its list of services. The Switzerland-founded wellness center has multiple branches around the world, and typically helps clients struggling with conventional addictions like drugs, alcohol and eating disorders. But recently, The Balance has begun offering programs for crypto trading addiction. The four-week program, which can cost upwards of $75,000, includes therapy, massages, and yoga.
The explosive popularity in cryptocurrency trading, fueled by the pandemic-induced stimulus, has resulted in a surge of luxury rehab centers worldwide. The BBC reports that many of these clinics have received a high volume of inquiries regarding the treatment of "crypto addiction," as the industry has seen a significant amount of losses suffered by participants globally over the past year.
The volatility of cryptocurrencies compels many investors to constantly check the prices and news, which can lead to a never-ending cycle of monitoring. Huge price swings offer the potential for immense profits overnight, but with that comes the added risk of huge losses. The excitement of placing bets with leverage can be exhilarating, but it also increases the risk of financial ruin.
According to Anna Lembke, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, crypto trading symptoms are similar to what gambling addicts experience. Both activities release a huge spike of dopamine in the brain – the same chemical high that alcoholics experience when they indulge in their vice of choice. This dopamine release leads to a constant need for more, eventually leading to addiction.
Centers, such as Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland and Diamond Rehabilitation in Thailand, have also started offering services for crypto trading addiction. These centers approach rehab through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and Psychodynamic Theory. The Family Addiction Specialist estimates that about 1% of cryptocurrency traders may develop a severe addiction over the long term, while 10% may experience other problems beyond financial loss.
But despite this emerging problem, some addiction experts are skeptical about whether crypto trading specifically warrants intervention with such an exorbitant price tag.
"They are making money off desperate people," Lia Nower, director at the Centre for Gambling Studies in Rutgers School of Social Work told the BBC.
According to the same report, Nower prescribes abstinence and managing potential withdrawal symptoms like irritability and insomnia as the first step. "No crypto trading or viewing for at least four weeks, which gives the brain a chance to reset reward pathways,” she says. “The [withdrawal] symptoms are usually time-limited and can be managed with emotional support and reassurance that they will eventually go away."
In the end, it’s up to the individual on whether shelling out $75,000 for a luxury rehab center is worth it. But for those who can't afford the luxury, perhaps simply taking a step back, disconnecting and resetting those reward pathways with time and support is the way to go.