The Addictive Poison of Pornography

The Addictive Poison of Pornography / Hands at keyboardWhen speaking about sexual purity at my church, I told parents that if they are going to let their children have internet access in the privacy of their own rooms, they may as well buy thousands of pornographic magazines and stack them in their children’s closets and then say, “Don’t ever look at those.” It amounts to the same thing.

After my message a sincere Christian mother came up to me. She was offended by my warning to parents to not allow their children to have unmonitored, unrestricted internet access.

“I can’t believe you said that,” she began. “My son has internet access in his room, and I trust him! He’s a good boy.”

I told her, “I used to be a seventh grade boy. I’ll tell you right now, you think you’re honoring your son by trusting him, but you are setting him up for a fall. You could hand him a gun, and his life would likely turn out better than if you just hand him over to the internet like that.”

If this strikes you as an overstatement, you simply do not understand the devastating effects of pornography. Though it would be absolutely irresponsible to simply hand over a gun to your son, many boys, perhaps out of fear, would not play with it or harm themselves or others. But the great majority who are allowed access to pornography will view it, and many of those will become addicted to it, ruining their lives and in many cases ruining their future marriages.               

John Piper writes about recent research that confirms the poisonous dangers of pornography:

Pornography: The New Narcotic

By John Piper

The new narcotic. Morgan Bennett just published an article by this title. The thesis:

Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent — if not more so — than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin.

To make matters worse, there are 1.9 million cocaine users, and 2 million heroin users, in the United States compared to 40 million regular users of online pornography.

Here’s why the addictive power of pornography can be worse:

Cocaine is considered a stimulant that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter that most addictive substances release, as it causes a “high” and a subsequent craving for a repetition of the high, rather than a subsequent feeling of satisfaction by way of endorphins.

Heroin, on the other hand, is an opiate, which has a relaxing effect. Both drugs trigger chemical tolerance, which requires higher quantities of the drug to be used each time to achieve the same intensity of effect.

Pornography, by both arousing (the “high” effect via dopamine) and causing an orgasm (the “release” effect via opiates), is a type of polydrug that triggers both types of addictive brain chemicals in one punch, enhancing its addictive propensity.

But, Bennett says, “internet pornography does more than just spike the level of dopamine in the brain for a pleasure sensation. It literally changes the physical matter within the brain so that new neurological pathways require pornographic material in order to trigger the desired reward sensation.”

Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography.

Not only do these addictive pathways cause us to filter all sexual stimulation through the pornographic filter; they awaken craving for “more novel pornographic content like more taboo sexual acts, child pornography, or sadomasochistic pornography.”

And it gets worse:

Another aspect of pornography addiction that surpasses the addictive and harmful characteristics of chemical substance abuse is its permanence. While substances can be metabolized out of the body, pornographic images cannot be metabolized out of the brain because pornographic images are stored in the brain’s memory.

“In sum,” Bennett writes, “brain research confirms the critical fact that pornography is a drug delivery system that has a distinct and powerful effect upon the human brain and nervous system.”

None of this takes God by surprise. He designed the interplay between the brain and the soul. Discoveries of physical dimensions to spiritual reality do not nullify spiritual reality.

Read the rest on the Desiring God blog.


Photo credit: hoboton via

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries