Neurologist speaks about effects of “new drug”

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By Kyrie Paredes, Reporter


For the first major event of the Fight the New Drug movement on campus, neurologist Donald L. Hilton visited UVU’s Ragan Theater on Feb. 3 to give a presentation about the negative effects pornography has on the brain. Sidreis Agla, vice president for the UVU chapter of Fight the New Drug and the coordinator for the event, revealed this was the first of many conferences to be held for the purpose of informing the public of the dangers of pornography.

Dr. Hilton is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas and travels nationally to speak about the science of the brain and how pornography can hurt neurological functions. His speech on Monday was centered on the science of addiction and the fact that since 2011, scientists recognize sex as an addiction akin to substances like cocaine and heroin.

“It isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem,” Hilton said in his presentation. He explained that the chemicals the brain produces in a sexual experience can alter the brain in the same way an addictive substance can, therefore creating dependency and neurological damage when experienced alone or without the emotional center of the brain to support it. “Porn is toxic sex,” Hilton said. “It’s a chronic disease of the brain.”

Hilton displayed several charts showing activity spikes in the pleasure center of the brain for people experiencing various sensations such as methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, sexual activity, and even normal food. The chart for sexual activity compared closely to the effects of morphine, an addictive drug used in hospitals for severe pain relief. Hilton explained that while some things can be good, too much stimulation causes the brain to wither and change.

To put to rest many former beliefs about pornography, Hilton compared pornography with substance abuse in several ways, from the damage it does to the brain to the way it affects the lives of the addicted and their loved ones. While the overdose of drugs can kill users, pornography, “the new drug,” causes fatality in the form of symptoms of withdrawal and depression.

“I personally know four people who have committed suicide because of their addiction to pornography,” Hilton said.

Though the Fight the New Drug organization focuses on the harm caused to those who view pornography, Hilton also touched on reasons pornography hurts its producers as well as its consumers. Sex trafficking, sexually transmitted diseases and displays of violence are all problems that rise in frequency within the industry. “If this were any other industry, if this was a sweatshop and these people were making tennis shoes, the world would be outraged. But because it’s porn, it’s ok,” Hilton told the crowd.

Between political or financial agendas and unreported rape or dismissed violence, accurate statistics are nearly impossible to come by when it comes to sexual violence. Numbers vary from source to source, and Hilton said there is no way to get accurate reports.

Studies like one done by Anthony D’Amato of Northwestern University in 2006 report that porn decreases rape in some countries.

“Those studies are based on absolutely ridiculous, inaccurate government statistics,” Hilton said, reasoning that no political official wants to report increased cases of sexual violence while they’re in office. “Since then, everyone has agreed that incidences of sex assault and rape are exploding in every country.”

Though the problem is as old as addiction itself, Fight the New Drug identifies it as “new” because the scientific community has only recently discovered how pornography affects the neurological system. “It hasn’t been recognized as a drug before,” Agla said. “When we think about addiction we think drugs but not pornography.”

To Agla, pornography is even more dangerous than a physical drug because of the fact that it’s available to anyone with Internet access and usage is easy to hide. “You can’t see their teeth decaying like with cigarettes,” she said.

Pornography is recognized by FTND as a prevalent hazard accessible to anyone, including young children. In his presentation, Hilton revealed that the most common age group among pornography viewers is 12 to 17.

“Our target is awareness. We want people to learn about the impact the drug has on the brain,” Agla said.

FTND doesn’t claim the solution is the removal of pornography from society. Their aim is to inform people of the dangers involved and help those struggling seek recovery. In so doing, the problem will die down. “If there’s no viewing, there is no industry,” she said.

Senior Veronica Smith attended the speech to gain greater understanding. “It’s nice to be educated [about] the real facts about this. In my household, [pornography] has always been bad. I would say I’m still close-minded about it.”

Psychology major Avery Petty left the lecture with a new perspective. “It depends on the person because some people have addictive personalities,” he said.