Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse
It’s been theorized that addictions to sex and addictions to substances have the same sort of chemical structure. The pleasurable signals the brain releases during sex are the same signals the brain releases in response to a hit of drugs, in most cases, and in time, the brain can become hooked on those chemical signals and demand the prompt, time and time again. There are times, however, when people with a sexual addiction also abuse substances. These people are flooding their brains with chemicals, and they may need professional help in order to recover.
In the beginning, substances of abuse may propel a person from just thinking about a sex act into actually performing the act itself. Some addictive drugs can reduce feelings of inhibition and shyness, allowing people to say and do things they may have never thought possible when they were sober. Alcohol, for example, has been linked to sexual activity in adults, with CASA reporting that heavy drinkers are five times more likely to have sex with 10 partners per year or more, when compared to people who don’t drink heavily. It’s easy to see how substance abuse could work like gasoline on a newly burning fire of a sex addiction, giving people the courage to act on their ideas.
Some people with sex addictions might not even find the act of sex itself very pleasurable. In fact, they may find the activity doesn’t bring them the kind of high that it once did, and they might feel the need to augment their sex acts and take them to new heights in order to feel the same boost of pleasurable chemicals they once felt at the end of a mild episode of sex. Drugs may seem to help here as well, as drugs can lower the threshold for pleasure. People who use drugs may not feel the need to escalate their behaviors as a result, making the drugs a sort of coping mechanism they can use to keep their sex addictions under control.
People with sex addictions can also feel intense periods of nervousness leading up to a sex act, and they might be compelled to:
- Check email
- Fantasize obsessively
- Wring their hands
Addictive drugs can soothe their nervousness and make them feel more relaxed in the moments leading up to a sexual encounter, and in the moment, this might seem helpful or beneficial to someone with a sex addiction.
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Even though substance abuse might seem helpful to someone with a sex addiction, drugs and alcohol can serve to lock a sex addiction into place, and abusing substances could make a person with a sex addiction feel even more lonely, sad and isolated. In the end, the addiction can cause yet more pain to someone who is already struggling. It’s vital to get help for both conditions, so the person can move forward with life without abusing substances or their own bodies.
Some experts suggest that replacement medications used for addictive substances could also help with sex addictions. For example, in an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers suggest that the opiate replacement drug naltrexone has the ability to boost pleasurable chemicals released during sex, just as it blocks chemicals when people take drugs. Using a medication like this, along with therapy, could help a person gain control and leave both behaviors behind. If you’d like to know more, please call us at Alta Mira Recovery.