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Defeat Lust & Pornography 6 minute read

Porn: A Gateway Drug

Last Updated: March 4, 2024

I work with men every day who struggle with some type of sexual addiction, and they all have one thing in common: porn. 

For a lot of guys, this is their main vice. The men who also have affairs, go to massage parlors, use escorts, or prostitutes all report the same starting point: pornography.

To be fair, this does not mean if you look at porn that you are guaranteed to progress to these other behaviors. It does mean that you are more at risk than you probably think.

Did you know that 56% of all divorce cases involve one person with an obsessive interest in pornographic websites?  Do you think these guys thought it would ruin their marriages when they invited this gateway drug into their lives?

So what makes porn a gateway drug? Why isn’t looking at a few pictures or videos enough?

What makes porn a gateway drug?

The answer is tolerance. Tolerance is when you need more of something to get the same effect. If I stop drinking caffeine for a while, a coke at 7:00 p.m. will keep me up at night. Once my body gets used to caffeine again, I can drink a coke at 8:00 p.m. and be out by 10.

When you look at pornography, it super-stimulates your brain. Basically a nuclear bomb goes off with all of the dopamine (the brain’s “gotta-have-it drug”) and testosterone released into your system.

When dopamine and testosterone get together, they make the experience more sexualized and aggressive.

At the same time serotonin levels drop, which makes you obsess about what you are looking at while increasing the experience of sexual tension.

The whole experience is intoxicatingIt makes you want more of that same feeling, so you go back to the same places to recapture the rush.

Somewhere inside, your body figures out that this isn’t really sex. It isn’t emotionally connected sex, so you don’t respond the same way.

What was once euphoric and awesome, becomes a bit dull. You need something…more.

Here is where the Internet becomes a bottomless pit. There is always something more graphic, more edgy, more tantalizing out there. With all the talk of “draining the swamp” over the past year, be assured there is no bottom to this swamp.

Before you know it, you have gone down paths that you never thought you would ever consider. And it happened one little step at a time. In fact, the stuff you began looking at seems boring now.

Tolerance not only desensitizes you, but it dehumanizes others–especially women. Studies have shown that after viewing pornography men minimize rape or violence perpetrated against women.

What else makes porn’s grip so strong?

The 3-A’s that strengthen porn’s grip kick in: Available, Affordable, and Anonymous.

Available: Everybody has a smart phone these days. Elementary aged kids have phones, iPods, or iPads. (Think of letting your child take a bag of chocolate chip cookies laced with crack to his room–what do you think will happen?)

We all have multiple access points to porn at all times. The days of having to go to the store for a magazine are long gone.

Affordable: Beyond access points, there is so much free porn available on the Internet that Playboy stopped publishing nude photos for about a year. Their product wasn’t profitable anymore. (Let that sink in for a minute).

Anonymous: It feels anonymous. A little hit on your phone at work. Some time on the iPad at home. No one knows, right? Everything we do online is traceable. Just ask the folks who signed up for Ashley Madison.

Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering services help you overcome porn by removing anonymity from the equation. Our services monitor your online activity and send a report to a trusted friend who holds you accountable for your online choices.

Mitigating Factors of Addiction

Research has provided several clues to show who is more vulnerable to addictive behaviors, and who is more likely to recover.

Risk Factors–Are certain backgrounds at higher risk for addiction?

1. Statistically speaking, if you have a history of verbal, sexual, or physical abuse, then you are more susceptible to addictive behaviors. In fact, this is the best predictor for addictive behavior.

2. But to tell how tenacious and persistent that addictive behavior may be, the best predictor is neglect. Neglect could be not having food, clothing, or shelter while growing up. More often, it is emotional neglect. This is not simply, “I didn’t get the big wheel when I was 5.” Neglect is when you don’t get what you need–for example, a lack of boundaries. Did your parents let you run wild or raise yourself? You didn’t get the guidance and protection needed.

3. Being shut down, criticized all the time, or consistently told you aren’t good enough–these leave an ache inside that begs to be medicated.

4. If you have an anxiety disorder (O.C.D., social anxiety, etc.), ADHD, or any history of trauma, then you are a prime candidate to self medicate by using porn or other addictive behaviors.

5. I have worked with a lot of soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan who learned to use pornography to self-medicate for PTSD.

Resiliency Factors–What indicates an ability to overcome addiction?

One of the best predictors of being able to recover from using porn, or avoid it in the first place, is connection.

The quality of your close relationships is a huge factor in undoing the effects of porn. This is more than hanging out with the guys talking about football, work, or the weather. Close connections (technically called “attachments”) have a huge impact on how your brain works. It is one of the best antidotes to addictive behavior you will find.

(For fun, check out attachment, oxytocin, and mirror neurons in your spare time.)

Invite a close friend into your porn recovery journey with Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability. 

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Pornography is a formidable enemy, but it doesn’t have to win the day.

By detoxing from looking at porn, your brain re-calibrates and you can enjoy a life that isn’t dominated by seeking out porn and fantasizing about what you have seen.

Dopamine withdrawal can be brutal for a week or so as you detox, but it is worth it. That is where connecting with friends comes in. Simply letting someone know what you are thinking and feeling (not even problem solving) releases oxytocin. It’s like taking a Xanax with no side effects.

Rest assured, pornography is a gateway drug. Fortunately, the gate swings both ways. That means you can get out even if you’ve been sucked in.

The best way to make sure the gate stays closed is to have strong relationships with friends and family. Sometimes we need someone to help us keep the gate closed.

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  1. Amanda

    It’s not all doom & gloom? Really? That’s an interesting statement. The recovery time it needs for those who have been victims of sexual violence? The wife who lost her husband to porn? The child that was molested because of someones Porn addiction? The women who was beaten into submission until she entered the Porn Industry to become a performer which then lead her to a life of prostitution and drug addiction. Tell them it’s not all doom & gloom. It’s not just about a guy battling his inability to control his sexual impulses by watching porn. The extremely high rate of sex Trafficking? Porn is a scourge. Don’t try and dress it up or dumb it down.

  2. Where do you get the idea the dopamine withdrawal is only brutal for a week? My worst day was day 49, and it took me over 200 days to be totally free of the withdrawal symptoms.

  3. Anthony

    I NEED you too fic your program for my SAMSING droid!!!!!
    I had to remove C Eyes from my cell phone 3 times cause it messes up my phone.
    My cell internet is my WEAK LINK!
    What should I do?

    • Chris McKenna

      Hello, Anthony – we are deeply sorry about the issues you’ve experienced with your device. Can you please call one of our customer service reps to get assistance? 1-877-479-1119

  4. Jennifer Landa

    Great article 💜
    Every man/women addicted or not should read this, education is the key.
    Thank you

  5. B

    All this stuff about porn was relevant a decade ago but it’s already a whole different world out there now. Covenant Eyes and other Christian groups are still playing catchup as the Church always seems to be with these type of issues. Porn has really become a married men and Christian men problem. Hooking up with women on dating websites, sugar babies, etc. is more relevant for single men and women. When I was frequenting sugar baby websites, I was regularly meeting middle class aged 18-20 year old Christian women doing the sugar baby lifestyle (so I know this is becoming more and more popular with that female generation). Most single guys are pretty good at using various dating apps to hook up with women. Honestly, porn is usually a last resort for a lot of men when other avenues of hooking up don’t work.

  6. JOE MAC EACHERN

    Could I have your permission to use this article word for word on my group page located on Facebook (PORN TODAY GONE TOMORROW). I think it’s an excellent article and I really wouldn’t want to use it without permission.

    Thank You so much for your time.
    JOE MAC EACHERN

    P.S. I have a folder which I have put every e-mail that you have sent me which I believe go’s back to 2014. I might be wrong about the date but there is a ton of them.

    • Chris McKenna

      Hi, Joe – if it’s a FB page, if you simply copy the web address: https://www.covenanteyes.com/2017/07/25/porn-a-gateway-drug/ and paste it into your FB group, it should show the post’s main picture and if clicked, take people directly to the entire post. Is that what you’re trying to accomplish?

    • Hi Joe- You absolutely have my permission to share this so long as you link it back to Covenant Eyes and include my name.

      I contribute weekly for a FB men’s group “Real Men University”. I hope we can team up in the fight.

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