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    May 09, 2016

    Sweden tests drug to curb child-sex urges


    "NO one would choose this, it's obvious," said Anders, who has unwanted sexual thoughts about children.

    He is at the forefront of a unique scientific study under way in Sweden to see if drugs can prevent paedophiles from acting on their urges.

    Anders, who agreed to be interviewed using a pseudonym, says he has never abused children but sought help because he knew his sexual fantasies were "not normal".

    He hopes the groundbreaking trial will halt his "improper" urges.

    At Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, patients like Anders who have sought help for paedophile fantasies but have not acted on them, are being given a drug normally used to treat advanced prostate cancer to determine if it reduces the risk of them sexually abusing a child.

    "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," psychiatrist and lead researcher Christoffer Rahm said.

    Various types of chemical castration are used around the world on paedophiles convicted of sex offences. However, the treatment is not used preventively.

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

    Clinical studies on paedophiles are also rare because of ethical issues and difficulties gathering data. Conducting research where patients risk harming a third party requires special cooperation with legal and child welfare experts, Mr Rahm said.

    In the clinical trial, half the 60 subjects receive an injection of the drug Degarelix and the other half get a "dummy" drug, or placebo.

    Subjects who receive Degarelix will have non-detectable levels of testosterone after three days, an effect that lasts about three months.

    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.

    Anders does not know if he has received the real drug or the placebo, and will find out only when the study is completed in two to three years.

    "I have noticed that my sex drive has been sinking lately but I don't know if it's attributable to the medicine," he says.

    Subjects will also undergo brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging while looking at computer-generated pictures of partially clothed people of all ages, to see how different areas of their brains react.