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Porn, Gambling and Drug Addiction: What’s the Connection?

A growing number of people are developing what many are calling addictions to pornography and gambling. Many of these addictions have been likened to substance abuse and drug addiction. In fact, entire groups and organizations have sprung up to offer treatment and resources for people who have addictions to pornography or gambling. But while these addictions might cause severe problems in a person’s life, they aren’t life-threatening like drug addiction is. So while it’s important to understand different types of addictions, there should be no confusion about the severity of substance abuse and drug addiction over other types of addictions.

Addiction to gambling is possible because of a chemical process in the brain that occurs when some people gamble. For these people, gambling triggers the pleasure and reward center in the brain, which releases a flood of dopamine – a “feel good” substance. General addiction theories state that over time, the release of dopamine becomes addicting and the individual will seek it out again and again regardless of the consequences. Gambling is also seen as a precipitator of other high-risk behaviors, according to Psychiatry Online.ORG;

“Other studies have found that teenagers involved in problem or pathological gambling are more likely to be involved in aggressive behavior, stealing, school truancy, drug sales, and prostitution.” (1)

Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted that examine gambling and its relation to substance abuse and addiction. However, the Iowa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System compiled data in 2003 that has striking similarities to drug addiction; “. . .in 2003, 1.6% of respondents who had gambled in the past 12 months said the money they spent gambling had led to financial problems; and 1.7% reported the time spent gambling had led to problems in family, work or personal life.” (2) If we assume these figures are true for the rest of the general population, then this means that there could be more than 5 million people in the U.S. with a gambling problem, the consequences of which – on the surface – are similar to drug addiction.

Fight the New Drug.ORG – an organization dedicated to educating the public about what it refers to as the harmful effects of pornography – states that viewing pornographic materials stimulates a release of dopamine in the brain, just as it does with drugs and gambling. (3) But while some people might scoff at the idea of addiction to pornography, some of the country’s most powerful lobbyists would vehemently rebuff them. In an article on whether porn is addictive or not, Martin F. Downs writes;

“In November 2004, a panel of experts testified before a Senate subcommittee that a product which millions of Americans consume is dangerously addictive. They were talking about pornography. The effects of porn on the brain were called “toxic” and compared to cocaine. One psychologist claimed “prolonged exposure to pornography stimulates a preference for depictions of group sex, sadomasochistic practices, and sexual contact with animals.” (4)

Much of the testimony before this senate subcommittee has been questioned by other professionals in the field of addiction who state that there is little evidence to support the claims made.

But regardless of the legitimacy of true clinical addiction to pornography or gambling, there is no denying the progressive, clinical and potentially fatal disease of drug addiction and alcoholism. There has never been a documented case of death caused by gambling or porn, but thousands of people die every year as a result of drug addiction. If this is happening to you or someone you love, it’s not too late to get help. Pick up the phone now and call the number at the top of your screen for a free, confidential consultation. We offer three of the country’s most successful drug rehab programs;

Inpatient Treatment
Outpatient Treatment
Day/Night Treatment

Don’t wait a moment longer – call us now.

(1) Vifrah Kaminer, M.D. and Nancy M. Petry, Ph.D. Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Gambling Behavior in Youths: Why We Should Be Concerned Psychiatric Services 50:167-168, February 1999
http://psychservices.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/50/2/167
Accessed 08/30/2011

(2) Healthy Iowans 2010 Substance Abuse and Problem Gambling
http://www.idph.state.ia.us/common/pdf/healthy_iowans_2010/sagambling_update_060305.pdf
Accessed 08/30/2011

(3) Fight the New Drug Comparing Pornography to a Drug
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/Science/physical/?blog_post_id=1055
Accessed 08/30/2011

(4) Downs, Martin F. Is Pornography Addictive? WebMD Men’s Health
http://men.webmd.com/guide/is-pornography-addictive
Accessed 08/30/2011

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More