Sunday, 28 June 2015

The New Drug

Part 2/3 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

by Obormottel (See all authors)

Pornography is bad for our youthnot only because it’s age-inappropriate and immodest and contradicts our frum values. It’s true that it damages the young and the innocent by introducing them to images and ideas that are far beyond their level of maturity; it distorts their understanding of what healthy sex is and perverts their expectations of what’s to come in the marital realm. But pornography is just as detrimental to mature adults. In fact, more and more people, religious and secular, men and women, young and not-so-young, have come to recognize and often experience for themselves porn use’s deleterious outcomes.

And this, I’m afraid, you may not have known: Internet pornography has an ability to affect a human brain much in the same way as cocaine or heroin do. In other words, pornography is an addictive drug with far-reaching, damaging consequences.

Yes, some disagree. In fact, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, does not list pornography addiction among addictive disorders - yet. But research-supported evidence posits that porn-watching is, in fact, addictive and destructive. Moreover, watching Internet pornography, especially by adolescents, can lead to addiction similar to drug abuse. There is little doubt that porn use disorder, under this name or another, will soon make its way into the psychology text books and manuals.

So what is this research that purports that pornography is addictive? Here is some of what we have found:

  • Dr. Judith Reisman, in her presentation to US Congress titled The psychopharmacology of pictorial pornography, restructuring brain, mind & memory… , declared pornography to be a “poly drug,” which is processed endogenously (which means it is produced by the body itself) and generates intense sensory rewards.

  • Psychologist M. D. Reed, in the paper presented to the National Family Foundation Convention, claims that “arousal dependence” created by pornography produces changes in brain chemistry just like those created by excessive use of amphetamines.

  • And Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton University, when describing porn’s effect to a U.S. Senate committee, has said, “It is as though we have devised a form of heroin … usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes.”

In addition to these scholars who compare pornography and its effect on the brain to that of the hard drugs like heroin and meth, other research examines behavioral effects of porn use. Researcher L. F. O’Sullivan, for example, found in his 2014 study titled “Linking online sexual activities to health outcomes among teens”, that while some people eventually habituate to pornography and stop or decrease watching it, others keep progressing in their need for ever more explicit imagery to stimulate sexual arousal. This is similar to a phenomenon called tolerance, where a drug-user needs ever-increasing quantities of his drug to achieve the same “high”. Another study, conducted recently in the Netherlands, found that those teenagers who viewed pornography at high levels, reported engaging in sexual acts for casual rather than affectionate or relational motives. This means that they do it just to “get off” rather than out of love. For frum teenagers, this translates into pursuit of premarital sex; certainly an affront to our values. This sexual promiscuity puts these teenagers at a risk for STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and other detriments to health and quality of life, just like drugs put their users at risk for contracting diseases, getting robbed or harmed during drug buying trips, and being arrested.

O’Sullivan also found that someone who is habituated to violence in pornography will likely participate in violent or forced sex. Finally, O’Sullivan's study confirmed what we've intuitively known: that adolescents who take part in online sexual activities to a degree that they neglect or altogether shun other pursuits could also report various health problems, social inadequacy and poor scholastic performance.

Additionally, a joint report by the BBC and the Portman Clinic in the United Kingdom found that large numbers of people express concern over their pornography use. About a quarter of all the men surveyed said that they worried both about the amount of time they spent watching porn and the types of images they sought for gratification. Four percent of men ages 18 to 24 reported viewing pornography for 10 hours a week or more. This level of use is compulsive and problematic, according to doctors quoted in the BBC report. Heavy users were also much more likely to worry that pornography is influencing their behavior and reported more relationship problems. Reed, too, states that obsessive porn viewing is “as distressing to a person as is drug addiction.”