Kirsten Andersen

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New study: Porn activates the same addiction centers in the brain as alcohol and heroin

Kirsten Andersen
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CAMBRIDGE, UK, September 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A soon-to-be-published Cambridge University study of compulsive pornography users seems to confirm that porn use can become a physical addiction.

Cambridge researcher Dr. Valerie Voon studied 19 men aged 19 to 34 who had tried to quit pornography and failed, even after losing relationships and jobs because of their porn habit.

Voon scanned the men’s brains as they watched erotic imagery and found that they displayed the same addiction responses as those of alcoholics shown ads for booze, or drug abusers shown images of dealers.

“We found greater activity in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is a reward center, involved in processing reward, motivation and pleasure,” Voon told the Sunday Times. “When an alcoholic sees an ad for a drink, their brain will light up in a certain way and they will be stimulated in a certain way.  We are seeing this same kind of activity in users of pornography.”

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Similarities between the compulsive behaviors of porn users and those struggling with chemical addictions have long been noted by the mental health community, but Voon’s study is believed to be the first of its kind to study the actual physical signs of addiction in the brain in response to pornography exposure.

Previous studies have shown that porn use leads to decreased sexual response over time, along with short term memory loss.

Voon’s study has not yet been published, but will be part of an upcoming British documentary called “Porn on the Brain” that will air September 30 on the UK’s Channel 4.

Backers of Prime Minister David Cameron’s push for age restrictions on Internet porn hope that the study’s results will help lawmakers and the public embrace their plan by showing that early exposure to pornography can be as physically damaging to developing brains as alcohol use and drug experimentation.

A recent survey of 19,000 parents by online security firm Bitdefender found that children started viewing Internet pornography as early as age six.  Studies show the average age of first exposure is eleven.

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