Swedish paedophiles to have drugs to suppress sexual urges

SCIENTISTS in Sweden have begun a unique trial treating paedophiles with drugs to reduce the risk of them abusing children.

The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm is using a testosterone-suppressing drug as a preventative measure on patients seeking help for paedophile fantasies.

One of those taking part in the trial is Anders, who sought help after having unwanted sexual thoughts about children which he knew were "not normal".

"No one would choose this, it's obvious," he said after agreeing to be interviewed under a pseudonym.

But he hoped the groundbreaking trial would bring an end to his "improper" urges.

"I realised almost two years ago that I needed to take care of this in some way. But there's such a stigma, you're afraid of being reported," he said.

Patients at the Karolinska Institute who have had paedophilic fantasies but have not acted on them are being given a drug normally used to treat advanced prostate cancer to see if it reduces the risk of them sexually abusing a child.

Psychiatrist and lead researcher Christoffer Rahm told news agency AFP: "The goal is to establish a preventive treatment programme for men with paedophiliac disorder that is both effective and tolerable so that we can prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place."

Chemical castration is already used around the world on paedophiles convicted of actual sex offences but this is the first time a chemical preventative step has been taken.

Dr Rahm said: "What we introduce with this study is a way of shifting perspective from being reactive to proactive."

He added that clinical studies on paedophiles were rare because of ethical issues and difficulties collecting data.

Special co-operation with legal and child welfare experts is required when conducting research where patients risk harming a third party.

A study by the Karolinska Institute last year revealed a strong genetic component in sex offending with men up to five more times more likely to commit a sex crime than the average male if they have a brother or father who has also been convicted of a serious sexual assault.

In this trial of 60 patients, 30 receive an injection of the drug Degarelix and the other 30 are given a placebo.

Those given Degarelix will have non-detectable levels of testosterone after three days, an effect which lasts for about three months.

According to Dr Rahm testosterone is involved in several of the most important risk factors for committing child sex abuse including high sexual arousal, diminished self-control and low empathy.

Patients in the trial will undergo brain scans while looking at computer-generated images of partially-clothed people of all ages to see how their brains react.

"We're trying to establish objective markers to determine the risk of the patient actually committing child sexual abuse," brain scan expert Benny Liberg said.

Using the drugs together with the brain scans and patient counselling, Doctors Rahm and Liberg hope they have devised a formula enabling scientists to accurately assess the risk of a patient sexually abusing a child.

But they warned the drug alone will not be a miracle cure.

Trial volunteers have been recruited from Karolinska University Hospital's treatment programme for unwanted sexual behaviour and from a national helpline and will be studied for the next two to three years.

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