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David Fawcett PhD, LCSW

With the ongoing fusion of drugs and sex – in whatever form that pairing may take – many people quickly discover that the super-stimulating effects created by such a combination begin to hijack their sexual desire, quickly and effectively distorting who and what they find sexually appealing. Orgasm is the most rewarding activity (in terms of pleasurable dopamine hits) a human can naturally create, and the allure can be inescapable when that sensation is expanded to superhuman levels by adding the effects of drugs.

Most people at first believe they can maintain control over their use of paired drugs and sex, firmly vowing that their ability to plunge into the seductive swirl of drug-enhanced eroticism won’t stop them from pulling back to the safety of their daily life. And some individuals do manage to regulate their use, but many others lose nearly everything. Some lose their lives.

When mood-altering drugs are introduced into the body, they act primarily on the reward circuitry of the brain, stimulating a rush of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that create pleasurable feelings. The reward center (the nucleus accumbens) is an area of the brain that is hard-wired to make activities that are necessary for survival, such as eating and sex, gratifying. Different drugs have various properties that affect the brain in ways that may impact how we view, think about, and engage in sex. Alcohol may disinhibit; marijuana may relax; and amphetamines tend to stimulate the reward circuitry, making anything that is combined with that sensation (like sex, for instance) even more pleasurable.

The sex-enhancing properties of certain drugs quickly cause the brain to link them with an intense, cerebral sex trip. This pairing is repeatedly amplified by the power of the sexual drive, and soon the effects of drugs become indistinguishable from sexual feelings.

The most powerful drug of all in this regard is methamphetamine, which fuses with the user’s inner sexual life and its most secret desires and fantasies. Meth supercharges the user’s sexual drive and self-confidence while powerfully rewarding the pleasure of sex.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is primarily responsible for fusing these sensations (and activities) together. When we teach our dog a new trick, it is dopamine that merges the expectation of a treat with a certain behavior, such as sitting or rolling over. This is what psychologists call classical conditioning. This best-known example of this Pavlov’s dogs, where ringing a bell caused the dogs to salivate in anticipation of a reward. In the same way, the effects of drugs merge with sex and, more importantly, sexual desire, creating a firestorm of sexual anticipation.

For many users, pairing drugs and sex makes sexual desire go nuclear. Men and women describe their sexual lust ramping up to the point of powerful obsession. Even after hours of sexual activity, including orgasm and persistent masturbation, sexual desire may continue to burn.

Sex addiction, porn addiction, and amphetamine drugs in particular have the most profound impact on a particular stage of the sexual cycle: sexual desire, which consists of sexual fantasies and the subsequent drive for sex that they ignite. Sexual desire results from complicated interactions between our relationship with ourselves (that is, our core beliefs about self-worth, self-acceptance, brain chemistry, and history with persons significant in our lives) and a range of other emotions and situations that fuel or dampen our arousal.

When drugs are paired with sex, one of the primary effects is a chemically based increase in lustful anticipation, with increased objectification of others and a decrease in empathy. Sexual partners lose their “human” qualities and slowly merge into the landscape of the paired drug and sex addict’s fantasy. When one is under the influence of extreme lust, partners are objectified for their physique or other characteristics. While some objectification is a normal component of sexual desire in any man or woman, it becomes supercharged with paired drug and sex use.

As objectification of others increases (in conjunction with increased pairing of drugs and sex), the ability to empathize with others decreases. Empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s feelings; it is a critical component of any mutually satisfying and sexual interaction. Empathy enables a deeper and more intimate sexual connection to unfold through both giving and receiving, pleasuring and being pleasured. This balance is disrupted by addiction, which seems to turn off parts of our brain that are essential to emotionally connecting with another person in this way.

The hijacking of sexual desire by combining drugs and sex results in a number of complications, including:

  • Reduced Sexual Inhibitions. Psychological controls that limit sexual behaviors are weakened under the influence of drugs. Powerful emotions such as shame, guilt, and anxiety that normally dampen erotic thoughts are minimized while sexual lust is ignited. Someone who is typically inhibited about pursuing sexual liaisons will become fearless with the heightened stimulation of paired drug use and sex, throwing self-consciousness aside and feeling transformed into a different person.
  • Escalation of Erotic Fantasies. Pairing drugs and sex also disinhibits one’s erotic imagination. It allows long-repressed sexual thoughts, feelings, and fantasies to overflow into real behavior, sometimes to the shock of the user. Because of tolerance (more on this in a future post), erotic fantasies and desires are constantly escalating in an attempt to replicate prior levels of arousal. Most people report sexual fantasies and behavior they would never ordinarily consider.
  • Violating Taboos and Personal Values. As increased levels of intensity and stimulation are required, many people find themselves breaking taboos, releasing an erotic energy expressed by reveling in outrageous behavior. This is especially likely for those who have felt bound by individual and social restraints. Profiles on sex networking apps and sites often emphasize not only unprotected sex but other self-described “pig” behaviors such as rimming, water sports, fisting, multiple partners, and other unsafe scenarios that can be demeaning and abusive. Individuals may also find that their sexual attractions change, such as the self-described heterosexual man who begins to exclusively desire male-to-female transgender women.
  • Lack of Impulse Control. Impulse control is a phenomenon directly related to the disinhibiting process. Many drugs result in impulsive behavior, including high-risk sexual activities such as unprotected intercourse. Poor judgment and serious consequences often result when the brain’s ability to resist urges is so dramatically diminished. One client of mine succinctly stated, “There could be a bowl of condoms on the bed next to me and I wouldn’t even consider interrupting my sexual lust to use one.”
  • Indiscriminate Sex Partners. Most people combining drugs and sex find that their choice of sex partners quickly becomes indiscriminate. Many of these people find themselves in situations they describe as violent, weird, or dangerous. Concern about the HIV or Hepatitis C status of a partner is frequently overlooked. In addition to a willingness to have sex with just about anyone, the number of sexual partners also rapidly escalates. One meth user says he went from three partners a year to three partners a day. Such promiscuity is well documented in many studies, indicating that men and women using meth typically report hundreds if not thousands of lifetime sex partners.
  • Increased Sexual Duration. It is not uncommon for sex addicts, porn addicts, and paired drug and sex addicts to find that many hours or even days have passed while they were in their addictive ritual. Meth users often describe meth-sex binges lasting 48 hours. Nut not without cost. Some people become obsessed with the persistent erotic force in their brains, and many can’t stop trying to have sex even after physical exhaustion and dehydration set in. All other basic needs are set aside, including hunger, which may be suspended by the action of drugs (particularly methamphetamine). Many users’ lives quickly deteriorate as their exclusive focus becomes drugs, sex, and more of each.

If you or someone you know is struggling with sex addiction, porn addiction, or paired substance/sex behaviors, treatment can be found through Seeking Integrity. For more information, email Seeking Integrity or call them at 747.234.4325.