Sex addiction: a comparison with dependence on psychoactive drugs (2003)

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Journal of Substance Use

Volume 8,Issue 4,


DOI: 10.1080/14659890310001636125

Martin Planta* & Moira Planta

pages 260-266


This paper considers the status of certain types of sexual behaviour as constituting a form of nondrug dependence or ‘addiction’. The term ‘sex addiction’ has gained a degree of acceptance only within recent years. Much of the published discussion of this topic has adopted the perspective of the ‘disease model’ and the 12‐step approach to addictive behaviours best known in relation to dependence on psychoactive substances. A number of definitions are cited, together with Carnes's influential typology of three levels of sexual addiction. Some criticisms of this approach are considered. It is not universally accepted that some forms of sexual behaviour should be regarded as constituting dependence or ‘addiction’. A number of therapeutic approaches have been commended in response to sexual addiction. These include individual psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural techniques and the use of medication to suppress sexual desire or intensity of orgasm. Some similarities with dependence on psychoactive drugs are acknowledged. It is concluded that certain types of sexual behaviour (including Internet or ‘cybersex’ addiction) may justifiably be regarded as constituting a form of dependence. Sex activates the same areas of the brain as those activated by drug use. In addition, there is some evidence indicating that problems with psychoactive drugs may be associated with problems related to sexual behaviour. It is suggested that ‘addiction’ professionals should screen clients for problems with sexual behaviour.