“Studies show …” Yeah, what studies?

Maybe you’ve heard “new studies are showing porn is as addictive as cocaine.” That’s a pretty hefty claim, isn’t it? Are you skeptical? Have you ever thought: Yeah, okay … what studies? Here’s one written by a neuroscientist. I found a public link to the article while working on a paper with my sister and thought I’d share. Read it for yourself. Cool stuff:


Hilton, J. L., & Watts, C. (2011, January). Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective. Surgical Neurology International. pp. 87-90. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.76977.


If you can’t get the link to work, just Google the entire citation. You can download the pdf for free from the Surgical Neurology International website.


It is really fascinating to hear a brain surgeon talk about what he has seen when looking at an addicted brain. Before reading the article, I don’t think I’d really grasped that addiction causes changes in the brain that are not only chemical, but actually physical. When compared side by side, samples of brain matter actually shrink. The brain is physically damaged by addiction. Because of this, addicts tend to display the same behaviors as survivors of other forms of brain trauma.

Addiction specifically damages the frontal cortex, the decision-making/impulse control center. In particular, this quotation struck a chord with me:

“studies of addicts show reduced cellular activity in the orbitalfrontal cortex, a brain area … [relied upon] … to make strategic, rather than impulsive, decisions. Patients with traumatic injuries to this area of the brain display problems–aggressiveness, poor judgment of future consequences, inability to inhibit inappropriate responses that are similar to those observed in substance abusers.”

Suddenly, looking back on my ten years married to a porn addict, so many things become clear. In a way, I was living with a brain-damaged individual. That is not hard for me to believe.

In the end, though, it is an explanation for behavior, not an excuse. With knowledge comes responsibility. Now that we know what this monster is, what will we do about it? Once we know the nature of this addiction, none of us–addicts or loved ones–should be able to take the subject lightly. Would we honestly expect a heroine addict to “just cut it out already and stop using”? No. We know a drug addict needs rehab, an organized process, some sort of real help. Porn addicts are the same.

The author of the article compares the spread of pornography in our society to an epidemic of cholera. I challenge those who are  suffering to stop and think. If you had such a deadly infection, would you try to keep it hidden, deny it … risk killing yourself and your family and further damaging society at large? Please. Get help.