Porn addiction - Real or remedial? - (12/19/2017)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Ben came into the pharmacy looking sad. He said to the pharmacist, “I think I am addicted to pornography. My wife has caught me watching it on the computer 3 times now and she said if I do not stop, she will leave me. Is there a drug that can help me break this habit?” The pharmacist explained that there is not a magic pill that can cure someone of watching erotic films. But he had some sound, professional advice to offer Ben. 

Pornography addiction is characterized by excessive use of explicit images, videos and other materials that induce sexual arousal. Addiction to pornography affects the same reward circuits in the brain that trigger drug and alcohol addiction. As it takes hold, porn addiction negatively impacts many aspects of the person’s life, such as relationships, jobs, social activities and one’s own sexuality. Today’s porn addiction is exacerbated by the Internet, which delivers limitless “xxx” activity in the privacy of one’s home. It is no longer about hiding one of your dad’s dog-eared Playboy’s under your bed. 

Whether watching pornography is good or bad can be a debatable point. Because no matter what your moral views are, the fact is, people like porn. Various international studies have put porn consumption rates at 50% and higher among men, and 30% and higher among women, according to The American Psychiatric Association’s Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology. 

In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, investigators at Brigham Young University and the University of Missouri surveyed heterosexual couples who were married or living together and found that men's use of porn was associated with lower sexual quality for both men and their partners. Female use of porn, however, was associated with improved sexual quality for women. In the same study, men who used porn reported lower levels of sexual intimacy in their real-life relationships. When women used porn, however, intimacy increased. 

So, is porn addiction a real affliction? In Ben’s case, his habit is negatively impacting his relationship. The pharmacist knows that Ben has 3 children in high school, and having curious underage kids in the house is a recipe for disaster if there is pornography to be found. Conversely, some contend it enhances their relationships. They argue that erotica can enhance sex lives, provide a safe, recreational outlet and perhaps even reduce the incidence of sexual assault. 

Symptoms of pornography addiction include: living a double life by hiding most or all porn use, anger when asked to stop using porn, and the inability to stop using porn. Although pornography addiction is different from substance addiction, many of the mechanisms that cause it are the same. As a result, similar therapies—including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and support groups—are used to treat porn addiction. Other methods, such as Internet monitoring or content-control devices, may also help addicts recover.

As for Ben, the pharmacist gave him the number of a good psychologist so that he can discuss why he watches pornography and how he can conquer this often all-consuming hunger. 
Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Read more at 

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