How Does Alcohol Abuse Contribute to Porn Addiction?

Dr R. Y. Langham

Feb 22, 2022

Behavioral disorders, like alcohol abuse, alcohol use disorder, alcoholism, and other “process addictions” like porn addiction have skyrocketed in recent years. And, while porn addiction is not included in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it is still a real problem. And, while some therapists assert that “porn use” can quickly become addictive, others believe that porn-watching is not a significant problem that needs “remedying.”

But, even therapists, who believe “porn use” is a real problem are unsure of its true influence and processes. Still, the general assumption is that porn triggers the user’s reward system, sparking feelings of joy, satisfaction, euphoria, and happiness whenever accessed. Thus, porn behaves similar to alcohol in the body, increasing one’s risk of addiction.

So, is alcohol linked to “porn use?” Yes. Many times porn addiction and substance abuse (i.e., alcohol abuse or alcoholism) go hand-in-hand. In fact, studies suggest that porn addiction and substance abuse (i.e., alcoholism) often occur together. A 2005 study found that approximately 31% of porn addicts reported past or current struggles with alcoholism. As a result, researchers have concluded alcoholism and porn addiction are closely linked with one addiction fueling the other, making recovery challenging, but not impossible.

Alcohol and porn are often used as means of “escape” (from trauma, anxiety, depression, or other painful emotions, experiences, and situations) or for thrills. The pleasing sensations produced in the body not only change your brain chemistry and function, but can also put you at risk of developing comorbid, co-occurring, or co-existing addictions (i.e., alcoholism or alcohol addiction and porn addiction).

Alcoholism and porn addiction are considered “compulsions” that are hard to control or stop. These two addictions tend to feed off each other, so it is common to have an alcohol addiction and porn addiction at the same time.

Comorbid addictions, like alcoholism and porn addiction, must be fully addressed. So, which addiction should be treated first? Well, most porn addiction specialists and therapists treat the addiction that is likely to cause the greatest harm first which in this case is alcoholism. Because you can overdose and die from alcoholism, it should be the first thing treated.

Keep in mind, however, that addressing the origin of your “porn use” and making the necessary changes to combat it, while being chemically addicted to alcohol can be challenging. Why is it important to focus on alcohol abuse first? Because any progress you make towards becoming “porn-free” is likely to be “undone” every time you consume alcohol. Still, to successfully recover from alcoholism and porn addiction both must be treated.

If you have a comorbid addiction (alcoholism and porn addiction), relapsing from one will most likely lead to relapsing in the other, so you must learn how to identify triggers for both addictions – so you can avoid them. Although having a comorbid addiction can complicate the recovery process becoming “alcohol-free” and “porn-free” is still possible – with the right resources, tools, and support.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, and alcohol use disorder, is a chronic condition, prone to relapses, that arises when a person can no longer control his or her use of alcohol or when he or she compulsively abuses alcohol, despite the negative consequences, such as financial ruin or debt, broken relationships or marriages, lost friendships and jobs, reduced self-esteem, etc. Alcoholics also typically experience emotional or mental distress when alcohol is unavailable. Alcoholism is included in the DSM-5.

Criteria for alcoholism can include:

  • Consuming alcohol in larger amounts or for longer periods than generally acceptable
  • Being unable to successfully reduce one’s alcohol consumption, despite a desire to do so
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time acquiring, drinking, or recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • Experiencing non-stop urges, cravings, and/or a strong desire to excessively drink alcohol
  • Being unable to effectively carry out home, work, parenting, or school responsibilities because of the alcohol use
  • Continuously abusing alcohol, despite any unpleasant interpersonal or social problems caused by the alcohol use
  • Abandoning social, occupational, or recreational activities that one used to enjoy because of alcohol use
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol in potentially dangerous situations (i.e., driving, caring for young children, or operating machinery)
  • Continuously abusing alcohol, despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem, such as depression or anxiety
  • Developing a “tolerance” for alcohol (i.e., having to drink larger amounts of alcohol or having to drink alcohol more frequently to achieve the desired effect(s))
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop the alcohol abuse

Note: To be diagnosed with alcoholism, you must exhibit at least two of these symptoms for 12 months.

What is a Comorbid Addiction?

Most addicts are dependent on more than one substance and/or behavior. People, who suffer from multiple addictions, have a comorbid, co-existing, or co-occurring addiction. Understand that addiction, regardless of the type, is usually motivated by a desire to “escape” from something – i.e., anxiety, stress, boredom, emotional and/or physical pain, an unhealthy relationship, loneliness, depression, past traumas, etc.

Thus, the goal of addicts is to stimulate the areas of their brains (the reward system) that are responsible for pleasurable sensations. Both alcohol and porn can trigger these sensations, causing a user to return to them repeatedly to get the desired effects (i.e., excitement, euphoria, or the feeling of being “high”).

Comorbid addicts tend to go back-and-forth between addictions with one addiction taking precedence over the other at any given time. For example, a person, who struggles with alcoholism and porn addiction, may watch porn for hours at a time (for months) only to one day decide to stop doing it.

It is important to understand that quitting porn will likely come with a host of withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia or sleeplessness, headaches, other aches and pains, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, irritability or agitation, aggression, brain fog or inattention, etc. But, instead of dealing with these negative emotions, many addicts simply replace one addiction (i.e., porn-watching) with another addiction (i.e., alcoholism).

Note: It is common for people struggling with more than one addiction to link the two addictions together. For instance, an individual struggling with porn addiction and alcoholism may need to drink alcohol while watching porn to experience sexual arousal, release, and satisfaction.

What Causes a Comorbid Addiction?

In 2005, Dr. Patrick Carnes and his colleagues explored comorbid addictions (i.e., porn and substance abuse). The researchers found that there are at least 11 ways that comorbid addictions can develop.

Listed below are the most common causes of a comorbid addiction involving alcoholism and porn addiction:

  • Deterioration

    Deterioration or “disinhibiting” involves using one addiction (i.e., alcoholism) to reduce negative feelings or inhibitions linked to another addiction (i.e., “porn use”). For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may drink alcohol to feel better about watching porn.

  • Unification

    Unification or “fusing” involves using one addiction (i.e., alcoholism) to strengthen another addiction (i.e., porn-watching). For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may drink alcohol to strengthen the sensations he or she receives from viewing porn. In other words, this individual may drink alcohol to improve or intensify his or her endurance and sexual experiences, such as masturbating to porn.

    These behaviors (abusing alcohol and watching porn) can impact an addict’s neural pathways, enhancing his or her “high.” The result? The addict does not want to engage in one compulsive behavior (porn-watching) without partaking in the other one (i.e., alcoholism).

  • Desensitization

    Desensitization or “numbing” involves becoming immune to the effects of addiction. Addicts who have become desensitized to porn no longer experience the desired results from engaging in the activity, such as porn-watching. Once the “high” wears off, a porn addict may experience feelings of shame and guilt. To remedy the situation, he or she may turn to alcohol to self-soothe.

    The truth is most porn addicts don’t enjoy having sex with their real-life partners. As a result, many addicts keep returning to porn because chemicals in their brain’s reward centers propel them to turn to porn to satisfy their sexual urges.

  • Concealment

    Concealment or “masking” involves using one addiction (i.e., alcoholism) to hide or conceal another one (i.e., porn addiction). For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may only seek treatment for the alcoholism and not for his or her porn habit. This person may not even acknowledge that he or she has another addiction.

  • Inhibition

    Inhibition or “suppressing” involves viewing one addiction (i.e., alcohol abuse) as “lesser than” the other addiction (i.e., porn addiction). For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may view alcohol abuse as the “lesser of two evils” or “not as bad” as the other addiction (i.e., porn addiction), leading him or her to engage in alcohol abuse more than porn-watching.

    The problem with this strategy is that by “suppressing” the desire to view porn, he or she only exacerbates the problem. In other words, the more the addict tries to “block out” the urge to view porn, the stronger the urge will become. And, even if the addict can successfully “suppress” his or her desire to watch porn, the addiction is bound to return at some point. Thus, the only way to stop the urges is to seek porn addiction treatment.

  • Replacement

    Replacement or “substituting” involves switching out one addiction (i.e., alcoholism) for another (i.e., porn addiction). For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may try to quit porn by turning his or her attention to alcohol. Although this may work temporarily, eventually the addict will return to the previous addiction (i.e., porn addiction). Addicts, who use this strategy tend to flip back-and-forth between addictions – constantly switching them out to get the desired “high.”

Note: When a person had multiple addictions, such as alcoholism and porn addiction, recovery can be tricky. Each addiction must be thoroughly treated for the person to be truly “free” from both addictions. The goal of recovery involves getting to the root of the addictive behaviors. It is almost impossible to heal from a comorbid porn/alcohol addiction without porn addiction help and support.

Moreover, the risk of relapse is higher when there are multiple addictions involved. Why? Because the triggers for both addictions may be different. For instance, a porn/alcohol addict may need to avoid sexy commercials, billboards, and movies and beer and wine commercials, and alcohol-filled parties to remain “alcohol-free” and “porn-free.” Also, keep in mind that relapsing from one addiction (i.e., porn addiction) heightens your risk of relapsing from the other one (i.e., alcoholism).

So, Is Alcohol Linked to Porn Addiction?

Yes, it is.

Many therapists admit that people can have a hard time stopping their “porn use” similar to people who have alcohol problems. But while the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) do not identify porn addiction as a DSM-5 mental health condition, to those, who suffer from it, porn is very much a real condition.

The WHO, however, does categorize porn addiction as a form of “compulsive sexual behavior disorder.” But even though porn addiction is not “officially” recognized, it shares several characteristics with alcoholism – i.e., mood swings, anger, irritability, poor judgment, compulsivity, and aggression.

Is Combining Alcohol with “Porn Use” Dangerous?

It can be…

One of the most prevalent dangers of combining alcohol with “porn use” is its ability to damage or destroy relationships. In fact, researchers have found that people, who exhibit compulsive sexual behaviors, like watching porn, typically have a low desire to have sex with their real-life partners – lower than “non-porn users.” So, a porn addict may crave sex – just not with his or her partner.

Once a person becomes dependent on porn, it can be hard, if not impossible, to achieve sexual satisfaction without it. “Excessive porn use” can even lead to health problems, such as porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), premature ejaculation, impotence, poor sexual arousal, orgasm problems, or sexual performance anxiety.

Thus, “heavy porn use” or porn addiction can wreak havoc on your relationship and cause problems in the bedroom. And, when you add alcohol to the mix, it compounds your relationship problems, leading to unhappiness, feelings of betrayal, mistrust, separations, breakups, or divorces. Moreover, multiple addictions can diminish your partner’s self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to body image issues.

Are Alcohol Addictions and Porn Addictions Similar? If So, In What Ways?

Alcoholism and porn-watching have some things in common, such as:

  • An inability to control a desire, such as to drink alcohol and/or watch porn
  • Neglecting areas of your life (i.e., child-rearing, job responsibilities, household tasks, etc.,) that do not involve porn and/or alcohol
  • Drinking alcohol and/or watching porn, despite the consequences

Note: Researchers have found people, who suffer from porn addiction, experience the same brain changes as alcoholics.

Have Studies Been Conducted on Alcohol Use and Porn Addiction?

Yes, there are studies on alcohol abuse/porn addiction, however, research on this topic is still fairly limited.

Seven percent of Americans grapple with heavy alcohol use or abuse each year. Similarly, researchers found that 6% of Americans struggle with a hypersexual disorder, like porn addiction. Researchers have also found that 9% of people, who view porn, have a hard time quitting porn.

Similarly, a 2020 study found that approximately 70% of heterosexual male sex addicts, including porn addicts, about 80% of heterosexual female sex addicts, and 80% of homosexual males are either currently suffering from alcoholism or suffered from it in the past.

Note: Because there is no standard guidance or criteria to diagnose porn addiction, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact number of people, who are addicted to porn and alcohol.

How is an Alcohol/Porn Addiction Usually Treated?

Most studies suggest that people, who can quit porn, can fully recover and regain healthy sex drives and sex lives. At this time, there are no medications specifically designed to treat porn addictions, however, porn addiction specialists and therapists usually turn to therapy as the first line of treatment. Alcohol addiction treatment typically involves detoxing, and/or admittance to an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab treatment program.

Some therapists treat a comorbid addiction (i.e., alcoholism and porn addiction) independently, while others treat both addictions simultaneously. It just depends on the therapist and your comfort level. Ultimately, however, researchers have found that psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) is beneficial for people, who suffer from porn addiction and alcoholism.

Treatment for a comorbid alcohol/porn addiction may include:

Can Self-Help Tools Help Me Kick My Porn/Alcohol Addictions?

Yes, they can.

Self-help programs, like Stop Together, can provide you with porn addiction support while you address your comorbid addiction of alcoholism and “heavy porn use.” Stop Together, is an online porn addiction recovery program that is affordable and accessible. In other words, it offers invaluable tools, such as expert-written articles, mindful mediation techniques, topic-focused audio recordings, cognitive restructuring, CBT, and ACT to help you kick your porn habit.

It normally takes about 8 weeks to complete the program, so you can get a quick resolution to your porn problem. And, because it is only two months long, you have more time to work on your alcohol problem. The best thing about Stop Together, besides the lifetime access, is that it has helped over 1,000 men recover from porn addiction. What does that mean for you? Well, if it helped them become “porn-free,” it can also help you! The first step? Signing up, of course!