Monday, April 23, 2012

Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!

Most people would never experiment with crack or heroin.  But, there is something worse out there - pornography.  I have written frequently about the dangers of pornography and one of our posts that receives the most views is because of people searching the internet for the phrase "what is wrong with porn?" and coming across our post with the same name.

We have known for years that porn is destructive to marriages, families, individuals, and society.  We also know that is is addictive - more so than crack or heroin.  Science is just now finding out just how destructive it is to the brain.  Using pornography radically changes the neuro-pathways in the brain by causing the body to inject strong neuro-stimulants directly into the pleasure center of the brain.  Repeatedly doing this means the structure of the brain itself is altered and the effects are devastating.  As one psychologist puts it, "pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their (men in particular) brains."  More:
Viewing pornography is not an emotionally or physiologically neutral experience. It is fundamentally different from looking at black and white photos of the Lincoln Memorial or taking in a color map of the provinces of Canada. Men are reflexively drawn to the content of pornographic material. As such, pornography has wide-reaching effects to energize a man toward intimacy. It is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.

Pornography "acts as a polydrug," Struthers explains. As Dr. Patrick Carnes asserts, pornography is "a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience." Boredom and curiosity lead many boys and men into experiences that become more like drug addiction than is often admitted.

Why men rather than women? As Struthers explains, the male and female brains are wired differently. "A man's brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience." Over time, exposure to pornography takes a man or boy deeper along "a one-way neurological superhighway where a man's mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. This superhighway has countless on-ramps but very few off-ramps.

Pornography is "visually magnetic" to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain's wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.

And then, enough is never enough. "If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time," Struthers reminds us. So, the experience of viewing pornography and acting out on it creates a demand in the brain for more and more, just to achieve the same level of pleasure in the brain.

While men are stimulated by the ambient sexual images around them, explicit pornography increases the effect. Struthers compares this to the difference between traditional television and the new high definition technologies. Everything is more clear, more explicit, and more stimulating.

Struthers explains this with compelling force:
Something about pornography pulls and pushes at the male soul. The pull is easy to identify. The naked female form can be hypnotizing. A woman's willingness to participate in a sexual act or expose her nakedness is alluring to men. The awareness of one's own sexuality, the longing to know, to experience something as good wells up from deep within. An image begins to pick up steam the longer we look upon it. It gains momentum and can reach a point where it feels like a tractor-trailer rolling downhill with no brakes.
So, what can we do about it?

There are a few options. If you think you are an addict, then you need to see a mental health professional who specializes in addictions. Don't wait and think you can kick it on your own. The Austin Diocese can help you find a counselor with expertise in this area.

If you are not an addict, but you are having trouble stopping, then I recommend you try our accountability group at St. Mary's (if you are a male college student) or asking for help from a pastoral team member, but don't be surprised if you are referred to someone else who is able to help you.  For other recommendations on behaviors that can help, see this previous post.

12 comments:

crazylikeknoxes said...

"I know it when I see it." Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on the problem of defining pornography

May I infer that the neurological effects of watching "porn" also occur when images, such as those found in a swim-suit issue but not considered porn, are viewed or when sexually explicit print material is read?

Father Schnippel said...

This also has a great impact in the discernment of priestly and religious vocations. Young men who have exposure to pornography cannot fathom a life of celibacy, and hence feel unworthy to be priests.

jayne said...

Great article. I would be interested in reading something about women's porn, or "romance novels." Women are more influenced by words than images. And while porn may be more acceptable today than 10 years ago, "romance novels" have been okay for a long, long time; and it starts in school when one girls gets a hold of a racy book and passes it around...

Daniel Curran said...

Jeffery Dahmer and another well known serial killer whos name is ecscaping me right now, were both very addicted to pornography and said that was the cause of their desires to rape and kill.

Dave said...

Thanks for posting this. This is a deadly problem for our society and goes almost completely overlooked as such.

God Bless

Michael Leggett said...

Ted Bundy admitted that he was a Porn Addict.

noahdoyle said...

Alcohol and tobacco I can pick up and put down as I choose, after quitting both cold turkey for a few years. My use of the former is moderate, the latter rare. I can't speak to anything harder.

Porn, I don't dare pick up again at all, not even once. Quitting that and masturbation (they go hand in hand...sorry...) was *much* harder than alcohol or tobacco.

Gert said...

The truth sets one free. But pornography is a lie, a lie about who we are as human beings, and all it can do is enslave one.

Adam P. said...

Could you please provide a reference to a scientific journal for the claim that pornography is more addictive than heroin? I don't think anyone would dispute the addictive nature of pornography but heroin is nearly immediately addictive and has unbelievably strong withdrawal symptoms, whereas clearly not everyone who has ever viewed pornography is addicted to it.

Marcel said...

Here are a few:

http://www.forwardpress.org/can-pornography-use-become-an-actual-brain-addiction/

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/11/65772

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1202605/Its-addictive-cocaine-just-damaging-So-YOUR-husband-hooked-internet-porn.html

http://mentalhealthlibrary.info/library/porn/pornlds/pornldsauthor/links/victorcline/porneffect.htm

Blake Watson said...

Praise Jesus for this article!
the people need to know that pornography causes millions of violent crimes a year, and is the sole cause of rape and murder! People that use pornography are sick and should be executed for respecting their "earthly" desires. Jesus never once thought about anybody as more that an innocent soul, not even when he was 16 and totally alone! we should follow his example and ignore the injustice around us, just like him and his dad!

743deffc-de25-11e3-b02a-000bcdca4d7a said...

I don't have a scholarly reference for the claim that porn is more addictive than cocaine or heroin, but I do have the testimony of some of my fellow sexaholics who also struggle with other addictions. Time after time I have heard people say that they were able to get clean from alcohol and drugs pretty quickly, but this addiction is insane. One friend has been "sober" for years, and this disease still talks to him. I know for myself that this addiction has been very difficult, but there is hope. I am writing to invite anyone who thinks he or she may be addicted to pornography or sex to come to SA. Look us up on the internet. We are a group of men and women (yes, there are women sexaholics, too) who are just looking to get well from their disease. You can't say anything we haven't already heard, and we will welcome you with open arms.