A drug already being used to treat prostate cancer that rapidly lowers testosterone levels has been found to act as a “chemical emergency brake” with a long-lasting effect.
A trial based on 50 paedophiles by Karolinska University, one of Sweden’s leading medical institutions, has identified a possible remedy against child abuse, national broadcaster SVT reported.
In the trial, half of the chosen paedophiles received Degarelix, a drug that rapidly lowers testosterone levels and is already used to treat prostate cancer. The other half received a placebo with saline.
According to the study’s conclusions, those who received the right medicine were found less likely to commit abuse. This was reflected in the various risk factors analysed, such as preoccupation with sex, deviant behaviour, and self-assessed risk. The positive effect was noted by the participants themselves.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I ever hurt a child”, “Nils”, one of the participants diagnosed with paedophilia, told SVT. While he himself assessed the risk of committing abuse as low, he said he would consider using the medicine in the future.
The risk factors are related to brain functions affected by testosterone, Christoffer Rahm, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet and the leader of the study, explained. According to him, the drug will act as “chemical emergency brake” for people who feel they may hurt a child.
“It can be on a holiday in Thailand or when you have to take care of grandchildren”, Rahm said.
As opposed to drugs previously used in so-called “chemical castration” that allow the testes to produce more testosterone at the beginning of treatment, temporarily increasing the risk of abuse, the new medication instead leads to an immediate drop in testosterone levels, with an effect that lasts for several months.
Jan Antfolk, an assistant professor of psychology at the Turku Academy in Finland and an expert on research on paedophilia, commended the study as “well done”, but argued that reducing certain measured risks was not tantamount to actually reducing child sex abuse.
Therefore, he argued, long-term follow-up studies and comparisons with psychological treatment are necessary before the testosterone-reducing drug becomes a valid cure.
Paedophilia involves recurrent sexual fantasies for more than six months about pre-pubertal children (in practice, girls or boys below the age of thirteen).