Sweden's Publicly Funded Chemical Castration Project

By Lila Abassi — May 11, 2016
There can't be a more horrible offense than the sexual exploitation of children. Researchers in Sweden are investigating whether chemical castration could work as a preventive approach, rather than as treatment after the damage is done.
Hormone therapy via shutterstock Hormone therapy via shutterstock

You've got to hand it to the Swedes, certainly a very enterprising people. The concept behind their research is not novel, but what is novel is that their scientists are using crowd funding to support their research on treatment for sex offenders. The funding is through Walacea, an organization which enables individuals to donate money for the advancement of science and scientific research.

The drug Degarelix, which is used as treatment for prostate cancer, is an antagonist of gonadotropin releasing hormone, which ultimately results in the suppression of testosterone. Since prostate cancer is driven by testosterone, blocking its production is referred to chemical castration -- one of the chief treatments for cancer of the prostate.

Significant preexisting research has supported the positive role that such chemical castration has played in reducing deviant sexual thoughts and behaviors in sex offenders. Some sex offenders have opted for surgical castration in lieu of lifelong prison sentences. Whether this practice is humane or not will not be discussed here.

This Swedish project is not focused on treating sex offenders, rather on preventing sexual abuse from happening in the first place. The participants are recruited through a helpline that aims to provide assistance to individuals who have inappropriate sexual fantasies about children. There are 60 participants enrolled in the study. Half the subjects will receive the study drug and the other half will receive placebo and the results will be based on three parameters: sexual arousal, self-regulation and empathy.

“The goal is to establish a preventive treatment program for men with pedophiliac disorder that is both effective and tolerable so that we can prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place,” psychiatrist and lead researcher Christoffer Rahm told AFP.

There cannot exist a touchier subject than child sexual abuse. If indeed we can address the situation before the damage is done it would undoubtedly be an invaluable victory.

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