Syringe
The team is hoping to chemically castrate men before they commit any offences against childrenReuters

A team of scientists from Sweden is seeking volunteers with paedophilic disorder to test out a new form of chemical castration aimed at men who have not abused or targeted any children. The team from Karolinska Institute is hoping to conduct scientific trials in the UK to see if a drug called degarelix, usually used to treat prostate cancer, can be successfully used on men before they commit any offences against children.

The drug lowers the level of testosterone in males, which experts believe is key to the main factors in why men act on their paedophilic thoughts – high sexual arousal, disturbed self-regulation and low empathy – so scientists hope administrating the drug could help suppress these urges.

The UK already has a government scheme which allows convicted paedophiles to voluntarily undergo chemical castration in a bid to stop them reoffending. The treatment was piloted in 2008 by psychiatrists at HMP Whatton, Nottingham, a specialist prison which holds male sex offenders, and is currently being rolled out across the UK.

However, the team at Karolinska said its research programme Priotab [Paedophilia at Risk – Investigations of Treatment and Biomarkers] is aiming to stop abuse before it occurs rather than current research which tends to be reactive, beginning "when the harm has already been done".

Dr Christoffer Rahm from Karolinska Institute and principal investigator of this treatment study, said: "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."

Rahm added he believes the research could prove to be vital as a "substantial number of patients with paedophilic disorder actually want help" but do not know how or where to get it". He added "There is an urgent need for more research to be done."

The team hopes to raise £38,000 ($53,000) via British crowdfunding website Walacea to conduct the research, which would need 60 volunteers, half of whom would be given a placebo drug rather than degarelix.

Assistant Professor Stefan Arver, director for the Centre for Andrology and Sexual Medicine Karolinska Hospital, said: "Most sexual abuse and sexual assault are performed by unknown perpertrators i.e. not known to society, not known by the police or social institutions. This is the case in more than 90% of sexual assaults. Thus in order to prevent sexual offence we need to find persons at risk of committing sexual offences and enrol them in treatment programmes."

Chemical castration has previously been tried in Sweden, Denmark and Canada and is mandatory in Poland and Russia. Evidence from Scandinavia suggests it can cut rates of reoffending from 40% to 5%.