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Pornography addiction is a serious problem that continues to grow.
The Republican party declared pornography a public health crisis during their 2016 convention. In an amendment to their party platform, Republicans claimed that pornography “with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions.”
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) of Utah signed S.C.R. 9, a resolution calling pornography a public health hazard and calling for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level.”
Jonathan Teel, a Mesa resident and former mental health specialist, who as a counselor specialized in addiction, said that pornography and substance addictions go hand in hand, meaning that the effects of pornography abuse “can change the chemicals in the brain…to a point where the individual… has that same sense of craving of those who crave alcohol or drugs.”
Teel called pornography a process addiction, which means it is habitual or, as Teel puts it, “It becomes a ritual of ‘I need this to get through my day.’” Other known process addictions include eating and gambling. Teel says that in the same way a gambling addict becomes addicted to the sound of winning at the slot machines, a pornography addict can become addicted to something as simple as the act of turning on their computer.
“Hearing their computer start up can start the ritual immediately and before they know it… they ‘black out’ in the sense of, they forget where time has gone.”
Teel said that it is common for those who struggle with pornography addiction to spend up to 12 hours online searching for and watching pornography.
While most people think of pornography as a moral dilemma, Teel says he saw patients who were consistently late to work or who lost jobs because they viewed pornography while at work. “Lives of individuals are wasted in the pursuit of their drug,” Teel said of pornographic habits.
In his work as a counselor Teel asked clients to write out how many hours they spent on pornography on a daily basis. He then took them step by step through how many hours that was per week, month, year and ultimately their overall time spent addicted. Teel then multiplied that by the minimum they made hourly and showed them how much money they had lost to their addiction. Teel showed clients how spending just two hours a day on pornography, with 10 years of addiction at $10 an hour was over $72,000.
Teel was careful to always refer to addicts as suffering.
“I use the word suffer because people with addictions are suffering. No one desires to become addicted to something,” Teel said. People who suffer from pornography addiction often become lonely, according to Teel.
“There’s that great paradox that they experience because some of society is okay with pornography use, however the vast majority of society does not approve of it… there’s that contradiction that causes a conflict.”
Teel also said that the loneliness extends past societal conflict, “there’s also this sense of depression if they can’t get that high [while at work].”
Celebrities such as former NFL player and actor Terry Crews, comedian Russell Brand and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt have all spoken out against pornography. Brand spoke out in a YouTube video saying, “Our attitudes toward sex have warped and perverted and have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and a means of procreation.” Crews has posted pictures on social media wearing a shirt declaring “Porn Kills Love,” the slogan of anti-pornography group, Fight The New Drug. Even former Playboy model and actress Pamela Anderson spoke out in an article she co-wrote with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for the Wall Street Journal. Anderson and Boteach called pornography “a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness.”
While advocacy against pornography continues to grow, so does the industry. NBC News reported that pornography is a $10 to $12 billion business in the U.S. Comparatively, Business Insider reported that the combined earnings of the top grossing teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and England’s Premier League at $2 billion, one-fifth to one-sixth of pornography’s national earnings. The global earnings of pornography in 2014, according to the NBC report, – $97 billion.
In Arizona, pornography addiction is still an understudied and ignored subject. Barb Millman, the communications director for Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, said no one at the Health Solutions department had studied the addictive affects of pornography. Murphy Hebert, the Arizona House of Representatives Democratic communications director said no Democratic representatives would be willing to speak on pornography or comment on the Republican Party’s declaring it a public health crisis.