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July 27, 2000 10:03am
Web Porn Addiction on the Rise in Ireland
Source: Reuters
by: Tony Roddam

(DUBLIN) -- Ireland has embraced the information age with vigor but its population is increasingly falling victim to its darker side - addiction to Internet pornography, a leading counseling agency warned Thursday.

Eoin Stephens, vice chairman of the Irish Association for Counseling and Therapy, said more and more people with sex addiction problems were seeking help.

``Sexual addiction is an area that is now really only coming out into the open in this country. It's not the kind of area talked about, particularly in Ireland, but it's good to get this out,'' Stephens told Reuters.

He said studies showed at least 1 percent of Internet users were sexually compulsive and that up to 8 percent of users could risk developing serious problems.

``We're talking about people who spend perhaps 10-15 hours a week using just sex-related sites. A sexually compulsive user could spend up to 30 hours a week at sex sites. And that is starting to happen in this country,'' he said.

``It's more men than women -- pornography generally seems to be more a male than female preoccupation.''

He said teenagers were particularly at risk, given their high levels of computer literacy, and easy access to the Internet from the sheltered privacy of their bedrooms.

``As Internet use increases, we can expect the compulsive use of sex sites to increase too. I'm seeing more people as the years go by,'' he said.

Ireland has seen massive change in the last decade. Breakneck economic change has transformed the country from a deeply religious, agriculture-based backwater of Europe to a more secular high-tech nation.

Stephens, whose organization offers a broad range of therapy services and regulates counseling, said he expected Ireland to imitate the pattern of addictions observed in other countries.

Stephens said sex addicts were attracted by the three AAAs of pornography -- accessibility, affordability and anonymity.

``Part of the theme of sexual addiction is anonymity. You never have to be your real self,'' said Stephens, who called the problem as serious as addiction to drugs or alcohol.

His Dublin-based organization expects to take on more counselors trained in the sex addiction field.

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