Dr. David Fawcett
People who pair drug use with sexual behavior typically discover, usually in relatively short order, that the super-stimulating effects of this combination can hijack their sexual desire – distorting who and what it is that turns them on.
This occurs primarily because mood-altering drugs impact the reward system of the brain, creating a ‘rush’ of dopamine and other pleasure-related neurotransmitters. When these substances are paired with another pleasurable activity, especially something that’s incredibly powerful on its own, like engaging in sexual fantasy or behavior, users can flood their brain’s reward circuitry with more than the natural amount of dopamine. This is especially true with stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine.
When addicts pair stimulant drugs with sexual activity, their brains learn that fusing the two behaviors in this way creates an intense and intensely pleasurable high. The drugs amplify the sex. The sex amplifies the drugs. And the only way to achieve this unnatural high is to continually pair substances with sex. Soon, the effects of drugs and sex are indistinguishable.
Again, it is stimulant drugs, especially cocaine and meth, that are most impactful. Meth in particular supercharges the user’s sexual drive and self-confidence, while also sexually disinhibiting the user and significantly increasing the naturally occurring dopamine/adrenaline hit of sex.
Unfortunately, when drugs, especially stimulant drugs, pair with sex, one of the primary effects is a chemically driven increase in sexual fantasy and lustful anticipation. Basically, users will increasingly objectify other people, with a corresponding decrease in empathy. In other words, sexual partners (and potential sexual partners) lose their humanity in the eyes of the user. Other people are reduced to sexualized body parts – objects without thoughts, feelings, desires, frailties, or needs.
As the user’s objectification of others increases and the ability to empathize with others decreases, the nature of the user’s sexual desire changes. Normally, empathy is integral to enjoyable sexual interactions. Basically, we are aware of our own needs and desires, as well as the other person’s needs and desires, and we find ways to work together to create a mutually satisfying sexual experience. For many people, making sure their partner is turned on and enjoying the sex is as gratifying (if not more gratifying) than getting their own desires met.
That, however, requires empathy, which, as stated, tends to disappear when drugs pair with sex. Thus, the hijacking of sexual desire. Suddenly, the other person is viewed as a means to an end, rather than as a person we might interact and create mutual pleasure with. Empathy enables a deeper and more intimate sexual connection to unfold through both giving and receiving, pleasuring and being pleasured. This balance is disrupted (hijacked) by the super-stimulation of drugs and the resultant decrease in empathy.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.