Pornography addiction is a cause for concern, especially among young people, according to some experts.
Clay Olsen, founder of Fight the New Drug based in Utah, was on campus earlier this year to talk about the very real consequences of this addiction.
He says Fight the New Drug was created to inform people of the harmful effects of pornography on the brain, heart, and more specifically, intimate relationships.
“The rising generation today is dealing with these issues to an intensity that no generation in the history of the world has ever seen,” Olsen says. “That alone should warrant some attention or some discussion around the subject.”
Kyra Cooper, student president of the Campus Ministry at Durham College, helped to put together the event for students and residents in the community.
“I think the main point was that we recognized as a group that pornography was something that impacted a lot of peoples’ lives,” she says. “It’s something secretive that people don’t want to talk about.”
It’s difficult to find statistics on porn addiction in Canada because until recently, this addiction wasn’t studied as a serious problem, according to Olsen. He says only in the last few years have doctors been treating it more seriously.
Jade Cyr, a student at Durham College in the General Arts and Sciences program, says it should be treated like any other addiction.
“It can be debilitating for the person undergoing it and embarrassing because it’s not like conventional addictions,” says Cyr.
And this is just the start. Generation Z, which includes anyone age 3 to 23 as of 2018, is the first generation to have pornography readily accessible to them by way of the internet, according Olsen.
“Due to the digital nature of their upbringing” young people, especially young couples, are more at risk of pornography addiction, he says.
This addiction, according to research gathered by Fight the New Drug, can affect future relationships if it’s not addressed.
“We talked to countless individuals about how pornography has affected all, if not almost all, aspects of their dating and relationships,” says Olsen. “What the research shows is it warps sexual templates. And so, individuals over time start to develop a new template.”
He says the rewiring of these templates can affect who these individuals have interest in, as well as how they view and treat their partners. Olsen says, the impact can be “profound and can affect intimacy in young couples.”
For years, there was nothing known about recovery other than “white-knuckling’” through it, according to Olsen. But now he says there’s more research on porn addiction, and groups in the community have been popping up to help people recover. These can range from rehabilitation programs to therapy.
One such group is the Fortify program, started by Olsen as an extension of Fight the New Drug.
He says nearly 100,000 people have entered the program from more than 150 countries to date. The program measures outcomes of depression levels, loneliness scores, and pornography use, as well as duration.
“We’re seeing that those that participate in the program have a significant decline in pornography use, depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as a significant increase in connections with other people and hope for the future,” Olsen explains. “I can’t speak for all options out there, but as far as results, I can speak to what we have.”
According to Cooper, students need facts to see how dangerous this addiction can be for their own relationships.
“You can’t ignore cold hard facts so that’s why we brought Clay in,” she says.
Olsen says having the facts will help convince one of the least trusting generations, Gen Z, of the dangers of pornography addiction. He understands not everyone will agree but he hopes that enough people will listen to the research to start helping people recover.
“That’s our goal. That’s where we stop. We say here’s the facts, here’s the research, make your call,” says Olsen.