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Stephanie Bertrand has been fighting a 16-year battle with addiction. Her greatest fear has been losing her four children. Stephanie’s home, Oct. 27, 2017, Windsor, Ont.

Life in the time of opioid addiction

A new controversial strategy in combating addiction could save thousands if it's accepted

By Bernard de Vaal. 2018.02.17

The front door of a middle-class Canadian suburban home yawns open, late on a weekday morning. The frail figure of a woman beckons me in. Clinging to her leg in the musty smelling hallway is a redheaded toddler who looks suspiciously at the visitor.

 

Stephanie Bertrand is a 36-year-old woman from Windsor, Ont. On her bony wrist sits a fading blue flower tattoo, the same shade as her eyes. Her skin carries deep blemished scars and when she smiles she reveals a set of brittle, decaying teeth.

 

Since the age of 22 she’s been exchanging vicious blows with her never-tiring arch rival. Addiction.

 

“It takes over every aspect of your life,” says Stephanie. “There is nothing more important than it. Even my own children.”

 

For 10 years, she’s been knocked down several times. Every time it takes more courage and strength to get up.

 

Her resolve to keep fighting has deteriorated drastically. She’s had numerous attempted suicides. She had to kick her husband out on the street and also deal with the constant fear of Children’s Aid workers walking in at any moment and taking her four children.

 

About a year and half ago opioid abuse in Windsor moved up to crisis level. Health care and law enforcement agencies had to scramble to keep people alive. A comprehensive strategy was rolled out. It addressed drug abuse in a way few ever thought possible.

 

It has been the life-line Stephanie needed.

 

Stephanie has her life and children for now thanks to the strategies prompted by the opioid crisis. Whether these emergency strategies will be successful and whether Stephanie has the staying power to see her rehabilitation through, depends on an entire community’s ability to shift perspectives.

 

Implementing and selling the harm reduction strategy

In October 2016, Ontario’s Ministry of Health released its first comprehensive opioid strategy. A year later, local authorities followed suit with the Windsor Essex Community Opioid Strategy.

The provincial strategy proposed to, “develop an evidence-based harm reduction framework … which has demonstrated to save lives and reduce costs within the health care system.”

Harm reduction entails providing addicts with services to help monitor and reduce their intake.

Both plans were drafted with input from a broad spectrum of community groups and individuals.  In effect, the responsibility of not only finding solutions but implementing them, was shifted strongly into the community’s hands.

Privately funded community organizations form a big part of both plans.

The AIDS Committee’s needle exchange program is already initiated in Windsor, distributing 600,000 free units a year. The feasibility of supervised injection services is being investigated.

To make the general public buy into harm reduction, authorities are faced with the mammoth task of de-stigmatizing addiction. Harm reduction’s basic premise is accepting drug use, “to be primarily recognized as a health issue rather than a criminal matter,” according to the Windsor Essex Community Opioid Strategy.

Until a bit more than a year ago, the effects of opioid addiction simply weren’t that visible in Windsor, says Sarah Cipkar, community coordinator of Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative.

Betteridge confirms that a shift has taken place from a mandate of arrest to, “getting them to a hospital and getting them treatment.”

The complicated nature of policing drugs becomes evident when the police follow up on incidents where they react to drug-related incidents.

“A lot of our people in crisis, when we get to speak to them, our investigations determine that it was legitimately obtained through a medical prescription,” he says “and  over time an addiction has developed.”

Even though the downtown area is the last stop for addicts who’ve lost everything due to the high density of shelters and care facilities, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of actual numbers.

“There  are a lot of people that live with this addiction in their everyday life but they might not be on the street,”  says Cipkar.

Overwhelming numbers of calls about “a person in the alley shooting up” or “being in mental or physical distress” have placed major strain on police resources.

Steve Betteridge, public information officer for Windsor Police Services says, “we are almost on a daily basis dealing with people in crisis who are dealing with addictions.”


 

The Downtown Mission. This shelter for homeless people aids its guests with a variety of services and programs. Windsor, Ont.

“If you crash your car into a pole and fracture your leg, you’d better damn well get an opioid at that ER, because that is what it’s going to take to handle that pain,” says Farago.

Doctors prescribe opioids in non-acute settings because they’re sympathetic, he admits. The harm reduction strategy also proposes the implementation of monitoring systems and information sessions for doctors.

Several high-strength formulations of opioids have been delisted from the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary, according to the Ontario Minister of Health.

Bertrand’s story starts at a time before harm reduction when such a strategy would probably have been considered a recipe to bring about complete public disorder.

Addiction medicine specialist Dr. Peter Farago at his clinic on Tucemseh Road E., Windor, Ont. Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017

Healing an addict’s body…and spirit

 

Dr. Peter Farago is an addiction medicine specialist who prescribes opioid substitution treatments like the tamper free Suboxone on a daily basis. He also provides lifesaving Naloxone kits that prevent overdosing.

“Harm reduction entails setting goals of reducing intake,” says Farago. Going cold turkey doesn’t work well. Studies show that after five years, only five to 10 per cent of addicts remain drug free.

Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are not dangerous nor addictive if administered and monitored correctly he notes. In controlled conditions, people live completely normal, pain-free lives. It’s also invaluable in emergency care.

Stephanie shows off one of the tattoos her customers at the bar where she stripped, loved. Windsor, Ont. Oct. 27, 2017.

The harm before harm reduction

 

Stephanie Bertrand ploughs down on a weathered couch and takes a deep drag from her vaporizer she calls “Big Boy.” Part of her twofold Methadone Maintenance Treatment/cognitive behavioural therapy is advocacy, so she’s doing this interview.

She says an unplanned pregnancy led to an early marriage. She and the father felt it was the right thing to do.

They had two children together but the marriage didn’t last. She got custody of her two children and had to provide for them so she worked as a stripper.

Drugs  were readily available. It helped her cope with the job.

“I started taking cocaine when I was 22. My marriage was falling apart. My family was falling apart. I was feeling completely inadequate with myself and the only thing that made it feel better was cocaine.”

One evening four years later, after a drug binge, she was feeling so hopeless she decided to end her life.

“I went down to the river. I climbed over the railing and I was ready to jump in. I was ready for the undertow to take me,” she recalls. Miraculously, a random stranger spotted her and talked her off the river’s edge at 4 a.m. She never saw him again.

In reaction, her ex-husband took their two children for two weeks. Along with her attempted suicide it served as a sobering wake-up call. That’s when she decided to tattoo their names on the inside of her wrists. She wanted to see that so that she’d think twice if she were to cut a line of cocaine again.

“But it didn’t work. I couldn’t even do it for my kids. That hurt me. Really hurt me.” She cleaned up for a brief spell and got her two children back.

“Finances went down the drain and I couldn’t afford to feed my kids, so I ended up going back to the bar doing the same job which eventually led to the same problem,” she said.

This time she supplemented her income by dealing drugs as well.

“That wasn’t a good idea,” she says, “because I ended up getting robbed.”

That fight she actually won. In fact, she got up from the ensuing brawl, went home and got clean for a whole year.

Then, her second husband stumbled into her life. He was a one-night stand that “stuck around,” but he was an addict and a thief. He introduced her to synthetic opioids, or “the little green monster.”

For years they tag teamed on who would keep the household afloat. “He’d steal anything that wasn’t nailed down.” The pressure of the relationship became too much.

When she was eight months pregnant with her fourth child she couldn’t suppress her addiction any longer.

“I’m not going lie. Near the end I just couldn’t do it anymore. My addiction took over,” she confesses. “I’m lucky he’s okay.”

Then three years ago, at Thanksgiving, her life bottomed out.

Her husband was late in collecting his Methadone treatment on a Friday so he would have to go without his fix for an entire weekend. Stephanie witnessed a weekend of withdrawals she thought would cost him his life. Shortly after, he started doing crystal meth.

“He would be seeing things, hearing things. It was the scariest thing. I’ve been through a lot of things with the drugs, but that scared me.”

She woke up one morning with a fright, cutting herself on the butcher knife he held in his hands while sitting on the bed next to her. He was seeing things and couldn’t make the voices stop.

“I took him to the hospital and they said, ‘oh no, he’s an addict, you need to take him to rehab.’ The rehab would say, ‘oh no, he’s got mental issues, you need to take him to the hospital.’ Neither one of them would help him.” Bertrand becomes quite besides herself as she recalls the event.

It became a week-long horror saga. Meanwhile, police were involved and along the way CAS entered the picture.

Stephanie at home with her fourth child. Windsor, Ont. Oct. 28, 2017

The motivational force that is Children’s Aid Society

 

The first time CAS opened a file on her, “I got them out in 16 months,” she says. “The second time they stuck around for three years.”

Not surprisingly, Bertrand has nothing but contempt for the organization.

In the past, a court sanctioned order stipulating conditions for an addicted mother to keep her children, would need to be followed to the letter. This left little room for aid workers on how to implement it.

Lee Ann Ford, family services supervisor at CAS says they realized in cases where an element of drug abuse was present, a type of court was needed that took a deeper and more caring approach.

Ford and her team initiated change by allowing for, “expansion of access if the parent is working towards recovery in treatment and doing well.”

They actively started pursuing ways in which court orders could be implemented that maximized the parent’s motivation to recover.

They want to provide services faster, even if that meant they would have to “take the parent’s hand and guide them.”

The more flexible approach coincides with the implementation of harm reduction strategies.

“A lot times I find that if the child is removed from the parent’s care, they really don’t have that motivation (to go clean),” says Ford. “It’s really hard for them to get their child back based on their addiction.”

Despite challenges, Ford and her team’s approach are paving the way for the Family Treatment Court, which is going to be similar to the U.S. equivalent.

This type of court will allow parents struggling with addiction to follow a recommended 12-month program allowing for weekly consultations with a judge. A Family Service worker would attend these meetings, advocating for the parent based on their progress. This allows for closer monitoring to determine the overall effectiveness of the orders.

“My children are my life. They’re the only reason I’m still here,” Bertrand confesses. She was still at the bar stripping. “I was sick of stripping, I was sick of talking to guys. I was sick of it all. I looked myself in the mirror and I said, ‘You need to fix yourself NOW!’”

A year back Bertrand took the final two steps in cleaning up her life. First, she kicked her husband out of her house. She says her daughter cries all the time.

“She doesn’t see him, but she knows he’s sick,” she says. “He’s still out on the street and it’s been a year and the snow is coming. It breaks my heart every day.”

She had been going for counselling at House of Sophrosyne and Hiatus House on and off for years. She didn’t share the extent of her problem out of fear they would tell CAS.

Then she took the second and final step to recovery. “I dealt with it pretty much on my own for a long time until I went to doctor Farago.”

Harm reduction’s give and take

Unlike other doctors who Bertrand says treated her like a junkie, Dr. Farago was compassionate and understanding. He assured her everything shared would stay between the two of them. Her harm reduction treatment included a moderate starting dose of 16mg of Seboxone and opening channels to her cognitive behavioural therapy coordinators.

Bertrand is down to 6mg. Foolishly she tried to reduce her dosages on her own twice, but quickly returned to the prescribed dosages.

She’s anxious to go clean and there aren’t as many supports for her as for some other addicts – she is not eligible for Narcotics Anonymous.

“You are not considered clean if you are using methadone maintenance treatment.  You cannot get key tags. You do not get to acknowledge clean time,” she declares dejectedly.

The holistic make-up of harm reduction therapies sees Bertrand utilising a multitude of avenues to receive and give support. She often chats on online support forums. She’s become a born again Christian through a program called Celebrate Recovery. Her counsellor from House of Sophrosyne is on her speed dial and she’s started an outreach and advocacy group called Angels of Hope.

They’re a collective of recovering addicts. They distribute Blessing Bags. It consists of donated sanitary products, socks and information leaflets for users left “out in the cold.”

She even assists in picking up improperly discarded needles in downtown alleyways despite the fact that each one she touches could trigger a relapse.

“It’s like a Pavlov’s dog’s response. It’s ridiculous. (And) everyone (needle) I pick up would send a bubble right here (pointing to her throat).

Bertrand has been on 6mg of Suboxone for three months and wants off. The final drop is lying ahead and she’s frank about how it makes her feel. “It scares the daylights out of me. I’ve heard so many horror stories.”

I could see the reality she confronts daily weighing in on the bed of confession she just made. She pinches her bottom lip with two fingers and looks up.

“I’m doing good. Everything in life is actually going like things in life are supposed to go for a change. I don’t know if that makes sense.”

 

xxx

Ian France, Kevin Roy and Joshua Ndolo are three Windsor, Ont. based entrepreneurs working in the space of cryptocurrency. Picture by Bernard de Vaal. March 30, 2018.

Cryptocurrency is trendy, but is it smart?

Huge hydro rates and big risks are among the hassles that aren’t deterring some Windsorites

By Bernard de Vaal. Apr. 18, 2018

The bank did it again. Raised their costs. Transactions take ages and cross-border transfers are riddled with regulations and hidden costs. Isn’t there a better way?

An increasing number of people are questioning the banking industry. This has given rise to the emerging private monetary system of cryptocurrency.

Currently, its training wheels are just coming off. Its usability is more like having gold than money. It’s anonymous, quick or quicker than normal online transactions and operates on basically incorruptible software called “blockchain.” It’s regulated by users and not the bank or government and, up to now, it’s not taxed.

The allure to most has been that it’s hip and trending.

Using open source (free) technology, something was created out of nothing. Through crowd funding campaigns, more than 1,400 cryptocurrencies are in existence to date — as many disappearing as fast as they were hatched.

In Canada, the government has taken a “soft-hands approach,” creating what’s referred to a “sandbox” so as not to stifle the technological development and innovation of this fledgling industry.

Trading of these speculative, stock-like assets already caps US$800 billion (gold is almost nine times that), which means the long arm of regulators won’t remain a mere spectator much longer. Most governments have classified it as owning property.

This rapidly evolving industry, backed by the seemingly endless potential of blockchain technology that underpins it, is playing its part in what disruptive industries such as Facebook, Uber, Airbnb and Netflix started.

Uber is a good comparison. It bit off a US$68 billion share of the taxi industry without a single taxi in their fleet. It’s powered by an app and un-vetted drivers using their own cars. No professional accreditation. No common insurance scheme in case something happens.

Muharem Kianeiff, an associate professor of law at the University of Windsor, has become an authority on cryptocurrency and is writing a book on it. On the matter of a parallel economic system emerging, he has several concerns as an academic and proponent of consumer rights.

“My difficulty, as an academic looking at this, is that there really isn’t much discussion of previous efforts at regulation or trying to draw analogies between previous disruptive technologies and what effect they’ve had on the market place.”

Proponents of cryptocurrency are banking on this yet unregulated industry doing the same to the banking industry than other disruptive industries have accomplished.

Dr. Muharem Kianeiff at a workshop on ICOs at the University of Windsor’s EpiCentre, March 5, 2018. Photo by Bernard de Vaal

In Windsor, Ont. — a city of about 220,000 people in the province’s southwest — three such libertarian-minded entrepreneurs have entered cryptocurrency’s world-wide mining, selling and blockchain technology race in what they hope will be a digital goldmine.

What is Bitcoin and are you protected?

Bitcoin is a brand (like Kleenex), and it is considered the gold standard of cryptocurrency. All cryptocurrencies dream of becoming Bitcoin. Bitcoin dreams of becoming an actual currency. The billionaire Winklevoss twins from (Facebook failure fame) call it gold 2.0. It was created by someone — or perhaps more than one person — only known as Satoshi Nakamoto, who wrote a computer program or algorithm that now trades US$5 billion a day.

How it works:

It’s complicated to understand, because it’s so unlike how we think of money. Whole books and long videos have been created to explain it, but here’s a brief explanation.

A number of bitcoins are released by its maker. Users set up a “wallet” with a private key and username that pairs with a public key and anonymous user name. As they trade, the transactions are encrypted onto a ledger. This process of encryption is performed by “miners” whose computers solve these encryption problems called “hashes.” The computer that solves the transaction block first is rewarded for its efforts with predetermined amounts of bitcoin. It’s currently 12.5 bitcoins (around $100,000).

This ledger forms a single chain of transactions called the blockchain and is maintained by everyone solving equations or mining. The longest chain would be the legitimate chain, being the one the most computers solving hashes agree as being true. A predetermined amount of time to solve a block (about 10 minutes) prevents a corrupt chain from overtaking the legitimate one.

And it’s finite. Only 21 million bitcoins.

There’s no central server. Everyone can see all transactions from the very first one. Its existence derives from and relies on a majority consensus of the one true ledger.

And there it is. A private fiat currency for the digital community, by the digital community.

Cryptocurrency however is not the first private currency by a long shot.

“The government didn’t get into the money business because they wanted to, but because they had to,” said Kianeiff.

There was too much economic uncertainty involved in private currencies in the past. “Unfortunately, we risk repeating those mistakes now,” he continued.

Kianeiff fails to see improved value and functionality offered by cryptocurrency to the ordinary consumer that the national fiat currency doesn’t already offer.

“It would be best for the public to have consumer protections that are offered by the Securities Act to give them the information they need to make sound business decisions.”

They call it “mining for profit”

“Back in 2013, I started mining bitcoin. Not very much. I put my Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) on. It was making two dollars of bitcoin a day,” said Kevin Roy, one such Windsor miner who solves these hashes with a small but continuously running GPU farm. (If he mined the same amount in 2013 with bitcoin’s current value, he would have made $200 per day.)

Since then, mining bitcoin has for the most part been hijacked by large companies that set up large storage containers filled with hardware specifically developed to solve the currency’s hashes.

For the small-time miner, the game can be tumultuous.

“You could buy a mining rig, make 50 per cent of your money back in one week and then the other 50 per cent … (in) six months,” said Roy. “That’s the kind of game you play.”

Kevin Roy mines any cryptocurrency that will give him the most profitable returns. Windsor, Ont., March 31, 2018. Photo by Bernard de Vaal

He’s currently making around $30 per day on an undisclosed number of machines.

He runs dedicated machines, some designed for specific coins — for himself and investors. He gets paid in whichever coin he mines. He keeps an eye on trends and “the talk” on currencies and directs his machines at which ever one is trending and would give the best returns.

Running these machines takes its toll on his electricity bill. Nearly a quarter of his earnings are spent on overhead. It’s also noisy and generates a lot of heat.

“It takes $10,000 of electricity to get one bitcoin. That gives it its value, because it’s tied to a real-world entity, which is power,” Roy said.

More transactions mean more computing power needed to add them to the blockchain. The influx of transactions raises the complexity of the hashes that need to be solved which in turn raises transaction costs and the time to process them. Adding a small transaction could cost anything from $30-$40.

“The general rule that economists tend to follow is that anything that is accepted as money by the public is money,” Kianeiff said.

Big-ticket currencies like Bitcoin, Ripple or Euthereum can be used to purchase many things online, “because (an increasing number of) businesses believe in their long-term value,” said Roy.

Roy didn’t agree with Kianeiff’s claim that Bitcoin is a vendor-centric model, making it of little value to the average consumer.

Roy goes to coincards.ca where he buys gift cards with cryptocurrency for just about anything, from Tim Hortons to Best Buy.

Roy knows he’s playing with fire. “It’s a tough, fluctuating market where a coin can just disappear off the face of the earth,” he said.

Right now, profitability of mining crypto has taken a massive dip, and some of Roy’s investors want out. Roy is thinking of switching his machines off until it’s profitable again. He’s in it for the long run and believes in the system’s longevity.

And he’s not opposed to government regulation.

“I don’t mind being legitimate at all, just no one knows how yet. As soon as they figure it out, sure. Why not?”

Making a coin profitable

Ian France, a businessman in Windsor, has been frustrated with the banking industry for years. This led him straight to cryptocurrency.

He recalled once trying to send real money from his cross-border account in Delaware to Idaho.

“It took me eight tries and 45-65 minutes on each one. It took me about 8 days to get the money.”

Eventually he had to transfer the funds back to his international TD Bank account in Canada first.

“But it just proved to me how ridiculous it is that the banks control our money,” France said. “They tell us how we can spend it, where we can spend it and even how much we can spend.”

Ian France sells investor packages for an online shopping platform. Its aim is to have its cryptocurrency, PRO-currency, dominate online shopping platforms. Photo by Bernard de Vaal/March 4, 2018

For a cryptocurrency to become consumer-centric, it needs to stand out among the masses. It needs to be popularised. An online personality would do the trick. If hard-sell is their calling card, you might just succeed.

France drops the name Kevin Harrington, on whose back the business, iProNetwork and PRO-currency (PROC) rides. Mister infomercial and shark in the Shark Tank himself.

France hosts workshops in trading in crypto. Often in Las Vegas. Here, he was approached by iProNetwork, and he bought in. His business, Ian France Entertainment and Events “covers whatever the hot topic is at the time.”

Unlike most cryptocurrencies, which are primarily speculative trading tokens, the iProNetwork sells incentivised investor packages ranging from $100-$6,000.

 

Half of the value of your investment is “given back to you” in the form of PRO-currency (PROC), a coin designed specifically for their platform. The other value is provided in the form of educational videos that help investors set up an online shop for their ibuyrite storefronts and an online cryptocurrency trading app.

Investors are rewarded with PROC rebates when they buy or sell in designated digital storefronts. This steady release of rewarding PROC is aimed at driving up its usability and, subsequently, its value.

“So, they’ve developed this ecosystem to keep people there, utilizing the coin,” said France.

Educating vendors to build online storefronts coupled with their “Canadian Tire Dollar 3.0” incentive sounds ingenious compared to most cryptocurrencies.

In the long term the problem that might arise in a scenario where online-storefronts only accept PRO-currency is monopolization, where the store, is the bank, is the user’s online wallet and the exchange.

Kianeiff was also concerned about this. “Are we just replacing one set of intermediaries with another?”

All that could remain is blockchain

Kianeiff advocates the need for unconstrained innovation in the field while keeping consumers from “unintended consequences of these activities.”

“Whether cryptocurrency will survive the short or medium term is impossible to know. Can you predict what Facebook will look like in 10 years from now? We don’t know,” said Kianeiff.

“What does have staying power is the development of blockchain technology, which is something quite apart from the cryptocurrency aspect,” Kianeiff added.

The potential of this digital innovation was embraced by Joshua Ndolo, a Kenyan who came to the University of Windsor on an athletics scholarship to study economics.

After Ndolo tried to send money back to his parents in Nairobi, he was driven to seek an alternative to the conventional banking system. It took three to four business days, $80 in conversion and bank costs as well as needing to show banks his passport.

Not much was happening on the crypto scene in Windsor back in 2013.

 

He started attending cryptocurrency conventions in Toronto and soon met up with a couple of Waterloo University graduates “who came up with this company Ethereum.”

Joshua Ndolo’s company uses blockchain technology to do cheaper, faster cross-border transactions. Photo by Bernard de Vaal/March 26, 2018.

As economics major, Ndolo was sold. He bought some crypto and set up his online wallet. His parents back in Kenia couldn’t make head or tails of it, but this didn’t dissuade him. He wisely invested some money when Bitcoin and Ethereum crashed in 2014. He received a handsome return on his investment when the value skyrocketed — enough to start his business, Amani.

“It’s this investment and the early success which really glued me into this space,” Ndolo confessed.

Ndolo started using another technological innovation from the Ethereum currency called “smart contracts” to distinguish his business.

Smart contracts are self-executing coded contracts stored and replicated on a blockchain. It provides feedback in the ledger of transferring money and receiving a product or service.

“It’s very economical,” said Ndolo. “At a bank, it (a transfer) might cost $80. We do it for three dollars. It takes about a day where at a bank it would take three to four business days.”

Amani uses a biometric thumbprint verification to initiate payments between two parties with their own customized blockchain at the back-end.

“The blockchain makes it seamless and faster,” said Ndolo. “It is the best-use case for blockchain we have available right now.”

His business Amani transacts in real money, because transacting with cryptocurrency carries significant dangers to users.

“If I’m buying something with cryptocurrency, I’m essentially sending cash in the mail. I don’t necessarily know who I’m doing business with,” Kianeiff argued. He highlighted how a history of consumer bodies challenging and changing the credit card system to include regulatory protection clauses was the reason the system functioned today.

For Kianeiff, the industry would benefit from having consumer protection laws set in place.

“There’s accountability,” he said.

Ndolo disagrees.

“The ledger of transactions is available to everybody. If you act immoral, or unethical in your transactions, we’ll be able to spot you. The community is alerted and we stop doing business with you.”

Ndolo said, until now, the banks were responsible for policing monetary transactions but now, “they don’t need to, because we can do it for ourselves.”

“It’s 10-times over the massive reduction in fees that attracts people, rather than the reduction in the time transactions take,” Ndolo said of the business clients he and his partners have drummed up over the past two years.

The biggest hurdle to his business had been paying for regulatory financial compliance and legal fees to make it all happen.

What does the future hold for cryptocurrency?

Ndolo is the only one of the three entrepreneurs who has made the cryptocurrency field his full-time vocation. France and Roy say they are both on the cusp.

Neither Ndolo nor France will say exactly how much money they’re making. For Roy, his crypto income adds up to around $900 per month.

The anonymity and absence of a central regulator are what make investing and using cryptocurrency attractive. It’s not impossible that this libertarian utopia can come crashing down in a wink.

The blockchain encryption technology was designed and initially used by the U.S. military. Once the government does decide to intervene, its specialists could easily track and pinpoint users and miners to enforce regulations in the industry.

Even following the route of “offshore wallets” would not help in evading pending regulations.

“After all, we do have tax treaties between countries and they do have reciprocal agreements that way as well,” said Kianeiff.

Something called quantum computing is on the horizon, and it makes freakishly complex and secure encryption a reality. It allows for reliable and lightning quick transactions, which might serve as catalyst for mass buy-in and attract users previously repelled by security concerns. The original reasons for wanting to regulate and safeguard consumer interests might even be unnecessary.

The nature of the internet and blockchain is open source and self-regulated, with instantaneously evolving platforms for sharing. Their very existence is wholly dependent on an inclusive and active participatory user community.

Despite looming legislation and extreme fluctuations in the value of cryptocurrency, there is money to be made, whether mining, trading or buying shares in cryptocurrency businesses.

Ndolo has some cautionary advice.

“It’s new, exciting, hip and it’s trending. But it’s nowhere near the other financial tools. It’s got a really long way to go.”

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