Men who fear they may abuse children taking part in Swedish drug study to reduce sex drive

Men who fear they may abuse children taking part in Swedish drug study to reduce sex drive

Drugs normally used to treat prostate cancer are now being tried on men who are worried they could go on to abuse children.

A groundbreaking study in Sweden is looking at whether the medicine reduces the sex drive in volunteers, which is one of its effects when used in cancer treatment.

The drug therapy reduces levels of the male hormone testosterone.

Anders - not his real name - is involved in the research and said: "Hopefully is will take my mind of these things so I don’t have to be so frustrated and moiserable."

Around the world, drugs are widely used to suppress the urges of sex offenders.

But the Swedish scientists are taking the controversial further step of looking at whether men in the general population who are worried about their sexual urges can successfully be treated to prevent them committing crimes.

They also hope to pinpoint "biomarkers" - tell-tale substances in the blood or brain wiring patterns - that mark out individuals who could pose a danger to children.

The researchers stress that if such biomarkers are found, there is no question of them being used to conduct population screening for paedophiles.

However they could help psychiatrists or prison governors decide if certain individuals can safely be allowed near children, or who might benefit from a drug treatment.

Dr Christoffer Rahm, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who heads the "Priotab" project, said: "One in 10 boys and one in 20 girls is sexually abused during childhood. This issue is hard to deal with but we must, because it affects all of us.

"Child sexual abuse causes a lot of suffering for the victims and their relatives ... it also has negative consequences for the perpetrator, who risks becoming totally isolated, depressed and sentenced to imprisonment.

"Up until now most of the attention has been on how to deal with perpetrators while they're protected by the police or by the authorities, but by this stage children have already been harmed.

"With this research project, I want to shift focus and explore methods of preventing child sexual abuse from happening in the first place."

Dr Rahm said a "handful" of men with paedophilic tendencies - none of whom had been convicted of any offence - had already been recruited by his team through a Swedish help line for people who fear their sexual appetites are out of control.

They were taking part in a study testing the effectiveness of degarelix, a prostate cancer drug that blocks signals from the brain that switch on production of testosterone. The male hormone is known to fuel the disease.

The aim is to compare 30 men receiving the drug with 30 others given a "dummy" placebo treatment.

The scientists want to see if the drug can help the volunteers keep their sexual urges in check without causing unacceptable side effects.

Three days after receiving an injection of degarelix, 97% of treated men have almost no detectable levels of testosterone in their blood. Unlike some other hormone treatments, the drug does not cause an initial "flare" that actually boosts levels of testosterone.

"The hypothesis we are testing is that this medicine has a clinically significant risk-reducing effect," said Dr Rahm.

The Swedish scientists acknowledge that the research involves serious ethical issues which will be explored as part of the project.

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