Digital drugs: Porno Napier Radio

Digital Drugs: Porno

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Digital Drugs is a podcast series that aims to explore the batch of addictive behaviours that digital natives in particular have to negotiate in the world today. Many such potential addictions have appeared in the past decade driven by the rapid growth of technology.

In the first episode of the series, journalist Ian McNally from Radio Napier in Edinburgh interviewed Mary Sharpe of Edinburgh’s The Reward Foundation, in a session that focused on pornography addiction.

Referencing Irvine Welsh’s famous “Chose life, choose a job, choose a career…” speech from Trainspotting, McNally looks at what has changed in the addiction-inducing environment young people face in 2017. Mary Sharpe takes the listener through the challenges of youngsters starting on hard-core porn and facing the potential of escalating to viewing material that they find uncomfortable or distasteful. Disturbingly, more and more internet porn viewers are escalating to watching illegal child pornography. Last year the NSPCC revealed that around half a million men in the UK, that is around 1 in 50, are watching child abuse imagery on the dark web.

Listeners are also briefly introduced to the NoFap.com website, one of the best support forums available online to help compulsive users quit porn. However a slight error crept into the editing of this item. The 90-days’ challenge is to stop watching porn primarily, not simply to stop masturbating. In fact the site states “that it is a personal process and there is no single correct approach” . People are encouraged to experiment with whatever works best for them in giving up porn, porn fantasy, masturbation and, or sex for a given period of time.

McNally mentions the DSM5 as the psychiatric “bible” of mental health disorders. This is often stated in journalistic articles but is incorrect. In fact the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) trumps the DSM in terms of influence. DSM-5 from 2013 has been discredited by senior figures such as Tom Insel, then Director of The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He stated that the DSM-5 “lacked validity” and that “patients deserve better”. The DSM focuses only on signs and symptoms of a proposed disorder and does not take into account actual bio markers such as the brain changes seen in all addictions, including porn addiction. The next edition ICD-11 due out in 2018, is set to recognise internet porn as a compulsive behaviour or addictive disorder as the preponderance of neuroscience research support this.

It’s worth noting too that one of dopamine’s roles is to strengthen neural pathways thus making the reinforcing and rewarding effects of engaging with porn all the more powerful and addictive.

It is great that this ‘elephant in the room’ topic is being aired amongst students as the casual acceptance of porn use masks the reality of the mental and physical harms that chronic overconsumption can cause some users. The full interview can be heard here.

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