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Dr. James MacKillop, Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Professor at McMaster University, was asked to share his thoughts on the compulsive seeking of psychic advice with the Toronto Star and W5.

A string of negative events including a death in the family, a divorce, and trouble with law enforcement have led a Toronto man named ‘Jack’ (pseudonym) to turn to five different psychics for help. After losing as much as $25,000, Jack was forced to sell his house.

An investigative report led by the Toronto Star and W5 has examined Toronto’s fraudulent fortune-telling industry – an industry that has claimed thousands of victims across the region.

As a leading researcher in drug and alcohol addiction, Dr. MacKillop notes that while there are parallels between substance use disorders and a compulsion to seek psychic advice, there are also key differences. He states that more scientific study is needed in order to understand if this behaviour can be clinically identified as an addiction.

While Dr. MacKillop explains that science does not yet understand these predatory behaviours, he also raises concerns about stigmatizing those who have fallen prey to such schemes.

“These kinds of behaviours are not to be dismissed simply as crazy, or as character defect, or moral deficiencies. They’re clearly causing people a great deal of distress,” says Dr. MacKillop. “Certainly they have some responsibility for their behaviour, but also in terms of perspectives, I think we have to try to help people. And both from the mental health community standpoint and also from the legal standpoint, I think we have to minimize the harm that comes from these predatory behaviours.”


Watch Dr. MacKillop’s interview with the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb and W5’s Sandie Ronaldo:

Treating fortune telling as an addictionToronto Star
Fortune tellers who give questionable advice for big money see their victims comingW5

Read more about this story:

Inside the secret world of Toronto’s fraudulent fortune-telling industryToronto Star

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