Fast Facts About pharmacological interventions for individuals who have sexually offended
Fact 1: There are specific medications that can reduce an individual’s sexual desire.
A number of hormonal and non-hormonal agents are available to reduce or inhibit sexual arousal and decrease the likelihood that someone will sexually offend. Hormonal medications typically include antiandrogens, which inhibit the production of testosterone, thus reducing sexual arousal. Non-hormonal medications include mood stabilizers used to treat mood disorders, which can reduce impulsivity and other factors that may contribute to sexual aggression.
Fact 2: Hormonal medications can have significant medical side effects.
Antiandrogens can cause breast enlargement, weight gain, blood clots, depression, gallstones, osteoporosis, and other medical problems. Because of the potential for significant side effects, these kinds of medications should be restricted to sexual offenders with a relatively high risk for hands-on sexual offenses and always administered as an adjunct to psychotherapy treatment, never as the sole treatment.
Fact 3: Non-hormonal medications may reduce sexual aggression in some offenders.
Researchers have found that some sexual offenders, those with paraphilias, hypersexuality, and certain neuropsychological conditions, see a reduction in the propensity to be sexually impulsive when placed on mood stabilizers for such issues as bipolar spectrum disorders, social anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD, among others. However, these medications should be used only in combination with psychotherapy treatment.
Fact 4: Medications can be an effective addition to treatment for preventing sexual abuse.
Sexual-offense-specific treatment can involve a variety of therapeutic techniques and pharmacological interventions. Treatment with drugs may be effective at reducing the risk of sexual offending or reoffending for some individuals, but pharmacological treatments should not be used as stand-alone interventions. If medications are used, they always should be administered in combination with other cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques.
Fact 5: There are ethical considerations to consider before using medications to reduce sex drive.
The long-term impact of many hormonal and non-hormonal medications for treating sexual offenders remains unknown. Any prescription of a drug for supplementing other therapy should be undertaken only after in-depth discussions with the patient and ensuring the patient is fully informed. In addition, the use of medications to reduce sex drive and consequently sexual behavior could be classified as a form of chemical restraint, which may be illegal in some jurisdictions. Further, policies and laws exist in many jurisdictions that prohibit the use of such medications on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
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The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Chemical castration for sex offenders: Grubin & Beech (2010)
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