Contributing Writer: Rinamay Rhoten, Reporter, @RinamayLopez

Students are banding together to discuss the previously taboo subject of pornography.

Fight the New Drug is a budding international organization focused on educating communities about pornography and its addictive nature.

Most people are familiar with addictions to physical substances ingested, inhaled or injected. These drugs are known to disturb brain function and create dependency.

Fight the New Drug argues that because pornography is not consumed physically, many people underestimate its addictive nature.

The addictiveness of pornography is hotly debated among clinical professionals. Some argue it’s a behavioral addiction while others argue it is a chemical addiction like other abused substances.

“I don’t know why some say it’s not an addiction,” Sidreis Agla, co-vice president of Fight the New Drug, said.  “The fact is that people crave it, people can’t get away from it, people look at it and they want to go back to it.”

Pornography overexposes your brain to it’s own hormones dopamine serotonin, oxytocin and epinephrine. The brain must accommodate the increase in hormones, which causes the brain to rewire itself, training it to demand the increase in hormones.

The increased exposure to hormones has been shown to shrink the frontal lobe, the area of the brain that regulates impulse control and decision-making.

Fight the New Drug also works to raise awareness on the social and personal impacts of pornography.

“It affects lives socially. It affects people physically, and emotionally and mentally.  So it’s very harmful. Not just in small ways, it harms the person who’s using, but it harms everyone that surrounds them as well,” Agla said.

Those who view pornography are statistically more likely to experience romantic and familial relationship problems. They are 300 percent more likely to struggle with marital infidelity and 56 percent of divorces cited the reason for the divorce as at least one of the spouses had an obsessive interest in pornography.

In addition to relationship issues, twice as many Internet porn viewers experience severe clinical depression when compared to non-viewers. According to the American Mental Health Association, pornography consumption also increases the chances of suicide.

Part of the struggle for many pornography users is the question of morality. They come from communities that denounce pornography as immoral and apply feelings of guilt to try to prevent the use of pornography or to stop those who are currently involved with it. This is a prevalent issue in Utah.

“Fight the New Drug’s message isn’t pushing for morality it’s more about social change,” Agla said. “They aren’t saying you’re going to hell if you use it. They aren’t addressing the God aspect of it. They’re saying if you become addicted to it you’ll end up like a heroine addict.”

That’s the message that the volunteers and club members of Fight the New Drug are spreading.  They don’t want to perpetuate an immoral stigma or make people feel guilty, they want to help others understand the risks and the options for recovery.

Alga is a mother of three kids and has been a recovering addict for 4 years. She’s passionate about the club because she knows how destructive pornography can be.

Agla joined Fight the New Drug because she and her family are well acquainted with the struggle of pornography addiction and the road to recovery. She said that she knows that this is a problem that is a worldwide epidemic.

“I may not be able to fix the world, but I can spread awareness in my school and my community,” Agla said.

Steve Pond, the president of Fight the New Drug at UVU, is passionate about the club because he believes pornography addiction should be discussed openly.

Part of the club’s focus is to create an open dialogue about the issues facing those who struggle with pornography or love someone who does. Pond believes that removing the shame to admit a problem is an important part of solving the problem.

“No one talks about it because they feel like they can’t,” Pond said. “But it’s an issue and it only makes it worse when we don’t talk about it.”

Unlike addictive substances that children are warned about from a young age, pornography is a subject that often makes parents and teachers uncomfortable. The subject is often avoided, leaving children vulnerable.

“When I was seven no one had ever talked about it,” Pond said. “So when a friend invited me to his house to see something on the computer, I did not think anything about it. I was addicted for 10 years after that.”

Protecting children is partially why Pond believes it’s so important for communities and families to openly discuss the issue much like how drugs are discussed. The average age a child is exposed to porn is 11.

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, exposure to pornography leads to a belief that promiscuity is a natural state, and that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy. They have also found an increase in cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners and a belief that marriage is sexually confining among teens and young adults that regularly view pornography.

Fight the New Drug wants to raise awareness of the dangerous ideas of reality that come from the addiction. Studies have found that those who consume pornography struggle with comprehending the realities of sexuality.

The UVU chapter of Fight the New Drug has its work cut out for it in Utah. The Beehive State ranks number one in online pornography subscriptions.

If you or a loved one is suffering from there is addiction there are options, visit fightthenewdrug.org.  Also tune into UVUradio.com every other Wednesday at 4pm for more information on UVU’s Fight the New Drug.

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Nicole Shepard is an Integrated Studies major at UVU. She is emphasizing in Writing Studies, Journalism and Peace and Justice Studies, and will graduate spring 2014. Nicole is hoping to work in cause journalism and advocate for restorative justice practices. She has lived in Europe three times she is also considering graduate school in the UK. Nicole is the news editor for the UVU Review.