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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

The Intersection of Drug Addiction and the Pornography Industry

Nickie Phillips


Adult film producers and crew use actresses’ drug dependencies as a method of control and manipulation

Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast Correspondent

Every day there are 1.5 billion pornographic internet downloads and 68 million pornography-related internet search engine requests. With pornography in such a high demand, the revenue, time and resources for its production are at an all time high. In the United States, the pornography industry revenue is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined.

To its audience, pornography appears as a fantasy world of pleasure and excitement. However, to those who participate in its production, drugs, disease, rape and abuse define the experience. These details are often kept in confidence as the truth behind the pornography industry would not only surprise its viewers, but scare them as well.

Adult film agents, producers and directors prey upon young girls in need of money and seeking enticing opportunities. Former adult film star, Shelley Lubben, reveals that the industry lures in and exploits many girls from broken homes who are vulnerable and desperate. Although the girls are often promised a large sum of money and glamorous lifestyle, such reception leads to brutal, vicious and traumatic experiences.

Studies have reported that sex workers develop a drug addiction while working in the sex industry, subsequently leading to negative, long-term physical, psychological and mental health. Female sex workers who inject drugs may experience an elevated risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and blood borne infections.

Since 2004, the National Institute of Health reported 2,396 cases of Chlamydia and 1,389 cases of Gonorrhea among adult film performers and in 2006 approximately 66% of performers had been diagnosed with Herpes. Since 2013, 205 adult film stars have died prematurely due to AIDS, drugs, suicide and homicide. In fact, the average life expectancy of an adult film star is only 36.2 years.

Drugs are introduced to adult film actresses as a form of control and manipulation. Drugs, alcohol and prescription pills are readily available on scene before a shoot. Adult film actress Michelle Avanti recalls crew members providing her with vodka and beer before shooting humiliating and degrading scenes. In addition, producers conspire with physicians to prescribe antidepressants, painkillers and anti-anxiety medications including Vicodin, Xanax, Norcos, Prozac and Zoloft. Adult film actress Jersey Jaxin revealed:

“...there are specific doctors in this industry that if you go in for a common cold they’ll give you Vicodin, Viagra, anything you want because all they care about is the money.”

Drug use among adult film actresses is extremely prevalent and rapidly growing. The National Institute of Health reported that of adult film actresses who responded to using drugs, 93.9% admitted to injecting heroin, 50% to cocaine and heroin and 21.1% to methamphetamine.

The Coalition Against Trafficking reported 87% of international and 92% of United States adult film actresses use drug and alcohol to resist and survive exploitation and violence in the sex industry. Drug and alcohol use becomes a coping strategy to endure the brutal, painful and degrading scenes, while improving performance. Adult film actress Elizabeth Rollings revealed constant use of marijuana, alcohol and pain killers before shooting scenes because she did not want to “feel the pain…from being told to hold poses for still camera shots while being penetrated and choked.” Jaxin concurred:

“You’re viewed as an object and not a human with a spirit. People don’t care. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they are being treated… you have to numb yourself to go on set. The more you work, the more you have to numb yourself.”

Avanti and Adult film actress Jenni Case recalled drug use as a means to “block-out” and “check-out” emotionally from pornographic shoots. Case revealed using drugs and alcohol to create an alternate personality, “Veronica”, to protect herself and avoid her raw feelings while completing the job.

The availability of drugs and alcohol on set results in drug dependencies, preventing adult film actresses from escaping the industry. Although drugs and alcohol may temporarily mask the pain, the effects eventually wear off and actresses must confront and endure the physical and emotional pain. Such suffering eventually leads to anxiety, depression and erratic behavior, some actresses become self-destructive and suicidal. Although adult film producers and crew use actresses’ drug dependencies as a method of control and manipulation, once it is believed that an actress has exceeded her limit, she is discarded and denied from future roles. Adult film actresses lose value to the industry as their drug addiction grows and she is exposed to STDs and other infections. Without a constant job to support the drug addiction, adult film actresses are forced into prostitution.

The use of drugs to coerce women into sex work led to the creation of the William Wiberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which modified the definition of “trafficking” to include praying on a victim’s drug use or addiction, whether such addiction is preexisting or created by the trafficker.


Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.