Pornography a ‘drug’ – a ‘masterclass’ in researching controversy

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Pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts similar to the effect drugs have on the brains of drug addicts, researchers say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean p orn is addictive. [s]Reuters Health[/s] reports that although there are no precise figures, experts in the field believe as many as 4% or adults are affected by compulsive sexual behaviour (CSB), more commonly known as sex addiction – an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour they are unable to control. Excessive use of pornography … can affect personal lives and work, causing distress and feelings of shame, the researchers from [b]Cambridge University[/b] in the [b]UK[/b] said.

‘Do the results tell us that online pornography itself is addictive like a drug? No. Do they say anything at all about the [i]non[/i]-compulsive viewing of pornography? No. Do they allow us to conclude that pornography “damages” or “changes” the brain in any harmful way? No. Do they even translate to all sufferers of CSB? No – the study tested a small sample of men only and, in any case, we can never draw strong conclusions from a single study alone. The results don’t even mean that the brain networks activated by pornography in men with CSB are necessarily the [i]cause[/i] of their compulsive behaviour.’

But, writes Chris Chambers senior research fellow in cognitive neuroscience at the school of psychology, [b]Cardiff University[/b], in [s]The Guardian[/s], ‘what I found particularly impressive about this study is that all of these caveats are highlighted by [the researchers themselves], providing a master class on how to tackle a controversial topic with confident transparency. And none of the limitations take away from what the study sought to discover in the first place – whether CSB is associated with a similar profile of abnormal brain activity to drug addiction.’

Full Reuters Health report
PLOS ONE abstract
Full report in The Guardian

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