Psychic addicts shell out big dollars

South Island psychic hotline users are being sought for a global study looking at possible addiction to 0900 numbers.

Auckland University researcher Dr Robin Shepherd is investigating why people ring psychic hotlines and whether excessive use is a form of addictive behaviour.

The study includes hotline users from America, Canada, England and New Zealand.

Shepherd said the response from South Islanders had been limited to date.

"In America it's a billion dollar industry, I don't know how much they make here, but the study shows people here are not coming forward."

Preliminary results showed callers overseas were spending up to $33,000 a year on psychic hotlines, with each call costing between $5 and $300.

Shepherd said New Zealand addicts were a little more restrained, spending on average $800 a month.

About 90 per cent of those looking for advice were women. Weekends were the busiest times after people had been drinking, feeling lonely or just had a bust-up with their partner, she said.

"Regular callers use the same words as someone with a drink or drug problem, talking about relapses and falling off the wagon," she said.

Blocking calls to 0900 numbers was the usual response, but addicts would get their fix in other ways by going online, texting or even visiting psychics at their homes.

One woman from the study was convinced her bad luck was because of a bad spell, for which she paid the psychic $13,000 to remove. Another participant was a psychic hotline worker herself and was spending $6000 a month calling other lines.

Shepherd said psychic hotline companies were not held accountable to any regulations or guidelines.

She hoped her study would make policymakers take notice of the problem. "But there's the question of how do you qualify someone as a psychic?"

Skeptics New Zealand chairwoman Vicki Hyde said psychic hotlines were exploiting desperately vulnerable people.

She had heard stories of marriage break-ups after bad advice from psychics and of schizophrenics being told to go off their medication because the spirit world was trying to talk to them.

The Press