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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Sex Suppressant Effect

Q. Do you have any research with records and results on the discontinuation of chemical castration injections after using it for 5 years in a row? Does the sex drive and function return to normal?

A. First, the term "chemical castration" is actually a bit inaccurate. There are several different chemical agents that are used to reduce sexual drive in chronic sexual offenders and predators. Medroxyprogesterone is a synthetic form of a female hormone (progesterone) that may be given orally or as an injection (Depo-Provera) to these sexual offenders. It works by reducing the amount of male hormone (testosterone) in the blood, but it does not reduce it to zero. In fact, the offender can usually still have normal, non-coercive sexual relations, if he were not in an institutional setting. Thus, the term castration is inappropriate.

Little research has been done on long-term effects with this agent, and I did not find studies looking at return of sexual drive after discontinuation. Another agent that is used with these offenders--cyproterone--also works by reducing sexual drive. It prevents the subject's testosterone from acting in the body, and also reduces testosterone levels. When this agent was studied over a period of 38 months in one sexual offender, testosterone was reduced, as was sexual arousal. But after the drug was discontinued, sexual drive and testosterone levels returned to normal within three weeks (Cooper et al, J Sex Marital Ther 1992; 18:292-302).

In theory, discontinuation of Depo-Provera injections should eventually lead to return of normal sexual function, though it could take several months. But again--I could find no studies actually looking at this question.

October 2001

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