Explained: What are Bitcoin, blockchain and the cryptos shaking up the world ...
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Cryptocurrency can be an exciting space for entrepreneurs and market investors – but the chase for financial freedom isn't always as plain sailing as it's made out to be.

In 2009, the first decentralised cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was created by developer Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains a mystery. It has become the most commonly held cryptocurrency in the world.

A year later, Bitcoin was assigned monetary value with someone selling theirs for the first time. For 10,000 Bitcoins (worth $40 at the time), the Florida man ordered two Papa John's pizzas.

Now, to put the power of crypto into perspective, if he had held on to just one of those Bitcoins, he would have amassed more than $40,000 today.

Sounds great, right? At times, it can be. But that isn't always the case.

Crypto is rarely a straightforward lane and can sometimes lead to detrimental complications. And while some crypto diehards justify it as a form of "investment", is it? To invest is to gain profit – but with the volatile cryptocurrency markets, the outcome is always undetermined.

Zealous enthusiasm, optimism and compulsion can very easily lead to falling prey to gambling highs.

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Crypto addiction has become so prominent that a rehab facility in Scotland has introduced the UK's first-ever dedicated recovery programme to overcoming crypto addiction. They saw a drastic spike in admissions last year, four times as many as the previous year. Generally speaking, it is people from larger cities, disposable income and between the ages of 22-50.

Castle Craig

Launched in 2017, Castle Craig's Cryptocurrency Addiction Rehab Clinic use group sessions and one-to-ones, along with an array of psychodynamic lectures and workshops, including art therapy and meditation. They also have doctors, nurses and leading experts in addiction on-site 24/7.

Understandably, patients don't have access to iPhones or iPads, so the temptation is immediately reduced from the moment they enter the castle.

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 & losses were made. It's a classic bubble situation."

Castle Craig

Sadly, three times as many people die by suicide from gambling than any other addiction.

"The volatility means quicker excitement to trading. There are so many potential pitfalls through this," he added. "I have seen people lose all their life savings and houses, jobs, retirement funds and more."

One of their past patients, using the pseudonym Will, opened up to indy100 about his battle with crypto addiction. Will explained how he had battled with an addictive personality since being a teenager which, at one point, landed him in jail. At the age of 22, he was pushed to go to rehab.

While managing to hold down a decent career earning £90,000 a year, his addictions moved from substances to trading – that's when he discovered the digital currency. Recalling the first time he "laid eyes" on the crypto charts, he said he "fell in love" with Bitcoin.

"I was trading Bitcoin, I was buying Bitcoin, I was spending Bitcoin. Very simply, I wanted to become a Bitcoin millionaire," Will said.

"I believed I had the intelligence, the window, and the wizardry to trade my way to millions. I wanted to crack all the codes and beat 99% of the world by becoming that 1%."

Comparing it to "riding a rollercoaster", Will said he had made over a million in profit. "I would have ups and downs. Except, each time the roller coaster went down, it went deeper and deeper."

Castle Craig

"As always, my addictions always went hand in hand with substances. I would have the mouse in my right hand, and on my left, I would be pulling out rolling papers, a cigarette and cannabis to make a joint," he added.

"It was like a continuous mind, body and action motion and it just didn't stop. Eight hours later, my belly would remind me to eat something. In that time, I would have traded maybe 100 times, losing £1000 and earning £5000."

His love for crypto soon came to an end. After five years, Will lost everything. He lost his job, his finances and his "integrity and confidence."

"I was descending into multiple rock bottoms, completely powerless over all my addictions," he said, adding that he was filled with denial, regret and "what ifs."

"I have calculated numbers in mind, and what would have happened if I had taken my money and put it aside. If I had just put my money in the stock market, I would have about 5 million pounds right now."

Castle Craig

Will hit rock bottom during Winter 2020 and turned to Castle Craig for much-needed support. While the length of treatment depends on the severity of the addiction, the facility advises at least four weeks of treatment, costing £23,200 (£5,800 per week) for a single occupancy room.

Will concluded: "I simply don't think it was in God's plan for me to become a millionaire."

"If I had just worked hard until I was sixty years old, and invested my money wisely in stocks and had a financial advisor and stockbroker to invest for me, I would have a million pounds in the bank by the time I retired anyway."

For anyone needing support or advice on gambling addiction, you can call the National Gambling Helpline free on 0808 8020 133.

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