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Porn is more accessible then ever and the percentage of those that watch it continue to increase. What the viewers don’t realize is that when watching porn they are changing the layout of their brain to that of a drug addicts.

Within the human brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released when an individual encounters pleasure. As a reward to the pleasure stimuli of watching porn, abundant amounts of dopamine are released in the brain. With repeated porn watching, the brain becomes desensitised to the effects of dopamine. According to a 2014 study published by JAMA Psychiatry, repeated porn viewing overtime dulled the response to sexual stimulation. In order for an individual to receive the same flood of dopamine, porn has to be viewed again to feel a similar ‘high.’ Psychology Today found individuals who view porn regularly need increasingly extreme sexual experiences to become aroused. The study stated that dopamine spikes lead to desensitization of ordinary sexual stimulation and encounters.

Pornography viewing has been found to change the structure of the brain. Cambridge University found porn changes the brain’s reward center, similar to an individual addicted to drugs or alcohol. In the study, porn users and drug/alcohol users had similar brain activity. But as porn users wanted to view porn more as a response to increased dopamine, porn was enjoyed less. Cambridge University also discovered that regions in the brain were effected in people with compulsive sexual behavior like pornography. All three regions of the ventral striatum, the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex were activated during porn use. These same brain regions were also activated when drug addicts were shown their drug of choice. For the human brain these regions of the frontal control regions are not fully developed till an individuals mid-20s. As a result of porn use, younger individuals develop an imbalance in the frontal control regions. Brain activity imbalance leads to increased impulsiveness and risk-taking behavior for younger porn viewers.

In the same area of the striatum, researchers found grey matter volume decreased overtime with porn viewing. According to Psychological Counseling Services (PCS) the striatum area of the brain responsible for motivation and reward response shrinks in size with increased porn viewing. These changes to the brain due to porn use are similar to brain changes in persons addicted to cocaine. This is the first research published that has linked porn viewing with physical harm.

While studies show pornography changes the size and function of the brain, it does heal itself. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmocology found that while porn changes the brain, frontal lobes are able to regrow. This can result in a healthy ordinary response to sexual encounters, returning dopamine to regular levels. In order to rebuild brain function and structure porn usage has to diminish to allow the brain to heal itself.