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Rebecca Hagelin / Jun. 22, 2010

Addicted to Porn

The cover story of the summer edition of Salvo magazine screams, “Porn is a Drug… and the addiction is very real.”

I say, “screams” because the editorial board (on which I serve, pro bono) is desperately trying to shine the spotlight on what just might be the most prevalent and destructive - yet hush, hush – addiction of our time: The continuous feeding on, and debasing of women and sex through graphic and often violent depictions of sexual activity.

Dr. Donald Hilton, a practicing neurosurgeon and clinical associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center authored Salvo’s feature piece, “Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs and Changes Your Brain”. Dr. Hilton skillfully documents the biological reactions to porn usage, specifically how it affects the production and impact of dopamine in the brain. “Dopamine is essential for humans to desire and value appropriate pleasure in life,” writes Dr. Hilton. Frequent use of pornography produces a steady stream of dopamine which quickly starts to lose its impact on the pleasure center of the brain. Thus, more porn is required to achieve the same “high”.

Dr. Hilton explains, “As the desensitization of the reward circuit continues, stronger and stronger stimuli are required to boost the dopamine. In the case of narcotic addiction, the addicted person must increase the amount of the drug to get the same high. In pornography addiction, progressively more shocking images are required to stimulate the person.” Which is why a pornography user can quickly go from soft-core to hard-core to child pornography.

You can read Dr. Hilton’s entire piece, for free, at www.SalvoMag.com.

100 billion dollars are spent each year on the porn drug in America. And it’s not just men that risk getting hooked: A study in the Journal of Adolescent Research reveals that porn is used by 87 percent of college males and 31 percent of females. Porn is becoming ubiquitous in American society, but, “Shhhhh…..we musn’t speak about it,” seems to be the rule. Why? Because if we openly to discuss the problem, then logic says we either have to start doing something to stem the tide, or decide to just normalize the shameful and destructive habit.

So what’s the harm? Dr. Hilton’s article explains how the production of the natural and powerful hormone oxytocin, which occurs during sexual encounters, helps us form emotional bonds with our mates. Dr. Hilton writes, “We are wired to bond to the object of our sexuality.” In the case of the pornography user, the sexual side of the user, “becomes, in a sense, dehumanized.” Many develop an “antisocial lust devoid of most values” and the high they get from pornography “becomes more important than real life relationships.”

Dr. Judith Reisman is perhaps the nation’s leading expert on the affects of pornography usage and how it often leads to an addiction that destroys relationships. Many addicts are doomed to a life of sexual dissatisfaction and lose the ability to forge an intimate bond with their spouse. A woman I know whose husband was addicted to pornography says, “It was like having a mistress in my home.” Both she and her husband experienced deep loneliness and emptiness as the fantasies and need for ever more perverted images began to crush their marriage.

The good news is, like with any powerful addiction, there is hope.

The best course is to be proactive in shutting out porn before it takes up permanent residence in your home. Get an internet filter (I recommend the one at www.Bsecure.com). Block cable porn channels, or get rid of cable altogether. And discuss openly with your children the harms and dangers of porn. Since 90 percent of children who go online will view internet porn (many just while doing their homework), we are, for the first time in history, now raising an entire generation of children on hard core pornography. Stop usage early by using the great tools at www.enough.org which are designed to help you have those difficult conversations.

And for those who have a porn addiction, it’s time to get help. To locate a trained therapist in your area, call 1-800-A-FAMILY or log on to www.family.org and type “counseling” in the search box.

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