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Crypto addiction is becoming a serious problem

For most young people, crypto trading is mostly a fun and recreational way of making some extra money. For some though, its lack of regulation and changeable nature can spark a slippery slope to addiction.

With cryptocurrency’s rapid and seemingly ceaseless surge onto the mainstream, addictions associated with digital trading are starting to enter the public consciousness.

Notorious for their volatility, coins like Ethereum and Bitcoin can lure traders into a false sense of security. One minute, a coin will seem like a lucrative ‘no brainer’ investment, and the next literal years of winnings can be lost overnight.

Despite its many lax regulations – which saw consumers lose more than $80m on investment scams in 2020 – crypto trading is constantly shoved down our throats. Popping up on underground posters earlier this year, and mentioned on social media every three seconds, some 300 million people are now dabbling in the practice.

Of this population, estimations from psychiatrists claim between 5 and 10 percent will be displaying behaviours synonymous with gambling addictions. In other words, crypto addiction is becoming recognised as a very real disorder.

At a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Peeblesshire Scotland, senior therapist Tony Marini claims close to 20% of his patients are being treated for damaging habits with crypto. Many of these, he worriedly states, are young.

‘A whole generation think that with a little mobile phone they can win, that they can beat the market,’ he says. ‘It scares the bejesus out of me.’

He believes, in-part, that the image cryptocurrency currently has – as a more democratic alternative to big financial institutions – is driving vulnerable youngsters towards gambling mechanics. It’s certainly a compelling argument too.

Crypto has become so over normalised in recent years that you can sparsely watch a YouTube video or scroll through your Twitter timeline without seeing influencers pushing some form of digital trading or app. The upcoming Web3 promises a whole decentralised version of the internet running on digital coins, in-fact.

All of this portrays in the industry as a recreational one, and doesn’t bring the potential risks to light.

At the start of the year, reality TV star Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr were named in a lawsuit alleging that they helped promote crypto firm EthereumMax, as it made ‘false and misleading’ statements that left investors nursing heavy losses.

Much in the same way that gaming addictions – and the continued palaver surrounding micro transactions and pay-to-win mechanics – have only entered the public consciousness in recent years, only now are we hearing initial murmurings of crypto trading’s mental pitfalls.

With no real stigma attached, professionals warn that it may be difficult to pinpoint when someone is displaying destructive behaviours with crypto trading. Dr Anna Lembke, a renowned expert on addictive behaviour, summarised crypto as having a ‘socially sanctioned status as something that maverick smart people do.’

You would expect that now, however, given digital trading is set to form a huge building block for upcoming metaverse projects, that the parallels to gambling will become harder to ignore.

Speaking on the scope of the issue, Marini warned, ‘It’s tenfold already since 2016. What’s it going to be like in the next five years?’