Is there a medical cure for paedophilia? That’s the question being asked today as researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm are investigating whether a drug used for treating prostate cancer could be effectively used to ‘cure’ men of any paedophilic tendencies. It is thought the drug would lower men’s tested testosterone and in turn libido.
The drug Degaralix is currently being tested on five Swedish men who called a sexual offenders helpline because they were concerned about their paedophilic inclinations.
“The goal of the pilot is to reduce the number of child sexual abuses, intervening before the damage is done” says Dr Christoffer Rahm, of the Karolinska Institute.
Drugs have been used in the past to ‘chemically castrate’ sexual offenders, but always after abuse has taken place. Many of the therapies used also have serious side effects such as breast growth, bone thinning and mood changes.
The objective of this new treatment is to make a difference before a crime has been committed. It is hoped that men who are worried that they will abuse children would voluntarily opt for the treatment.
In addition to this, the research team will also be trying to identify biomarkers which could indicate if a person is prone to paedophilia. In the Daily Telegraph it is reported that last year, researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Oxford University found that 40 per cent of the risk of committing a sex crime is genetic, with the remaining 60 per cent down to personal and environmental factors, such as being abused as a child.
Does this mean that paedophilia should not just be considered in a law enforcement and child protection context but in a medical one too?
If paedophilia has a genetic component will it mean that the damaged or erroneous gene can be switched off?
Will paedophilia one day be seen as a disease which can be cured?
These are the questions raised by the reports from this research.
Although the researchers have ruled out screening for paedophiles, it could help identify those who are likely to benefit from medication.
Initial trials of the drug Degarelix showed that after three days men had no detectable levels of testosterone and within two weeks the risk of them abusing children had reduced substantially.
The effect lasts for three months and another injection could be given afterwards if sexually inappropriate behaviour and thoughts returned.
Assistant Professor Stefan Arver, Karolinska Institute added: ‘Sexual crimes are committed by people who are unknown to society, 90 per cent are new perpetrators.
“They exist already out in society, at the grocery store, and some of them will commit crimes.
“We need to reach those people who have behaviours which may lead to crime and abuse. We need treatment programmes.’
Researchers said the project was focussed on men because while it was acknowledged that women also sexually abuse children, it is men who carry out the most serious crimes.
In the Daily Telegraph Professor Donald Grubin, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, Newcastle University, is quoted as saying: ‘It’s about prevention. Typically we come in after an offence is committed and we’re trying to pick up the pieces.’
Studies have suggested that between one in 20 and one in 35 men are sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children, a prevalence so high that some experts think it could be an orientation, in the same way as homosexuality or heterosexuality.
Around one in 10 girls are sexually abused as youngsters and one in 20 boys. More than 36,000 sexual offences were recorded against children in the UK last year.
The Home Office estimates that each child sexual offence costs the taxpayer £37,000 when taking into account the police investigation, legal proceedings and medical treatment.
The social costs far outweigh the financial due to the number of lives damaged by child abuse so any learning and increase in our understanding of paedophilia can only be positive.
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