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What is Chemical Castration?

By Lisa O'Meara
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chemical castration is the process of administering anti-androgen drugs to a male in an effort to reduce his testosterone levels and suppress his sex drive. Unlike surgical castration, in which the male's testicles are removed, chemical methods can be reversed by discontinuing use of the drugs. This process is used in many countries on convicted sex offenders, such as pedophiles or rapists, and in some places, it has reduced the chance of a repeat offense from 75% to 2%.

Although other drugs are sometimes used, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) and cyproterone acetate are among the more common choices for chemical castration. MPA is the active ingredient in Depo Provera, a birth control drug that has become a popular anti-androgen because it only needs to be administered at three month intervals. All of these drugs lower testosterone levels in men, which leads to a decline in sex drive and can reduce their ability to become sexually stimulated. A reduction in testosterone can also lessen aggression in men, making them more compliant and less of a threat to others.

Proponents of chemical castration cite studies showing reduced recidivism rates as a major reason to continue use of the process. Arguing that it is more ethical than long term imprisonment, they also claim there is a danger in sentencing criminals to prison untreated. They fear that the sexual desires, fantasies and rage of criminals will build during their incarceration, while also providing them the time to plot new ways to commit their crimes undetected upon their release. Those in favor of chemical treatment also contend that it is humane when compared to surgical castration.

Opponents have concerns regarding the constitutional rights of criminals as well as the temporary nature of anti-androgens. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stated their dissatisfaction with allowing judges rather than medical professionals to order medical treatment. They feel it is unconstitutional to force someone to accept medical treatment, particularly when those people run the risk of developing harmful side effects, like the development of osteoporosis due to diminished bone density, as well as cardiovascular disease that can result from an increase of body fat and a loss of muscle mass. Men may also see an increase in their breast size or a reduction in body hair as a consequence of continued anti-androgen use.

Chemical castration also interferes with the ability of men to procreate and therefore opponents argue that it is at odds with the right to privacy implied in the United States Constitution. For all these reasons, the ACLU believes the practice is cruel and unusual punishment and prohibited under the 8th amendment to the U.S. constitution. Opponents also contend that it does nothing to treat the underlying causes of sexually deviant behavior. As such, once a man stops taking the medication, he is inclined to revert back to criminal behavior. They believe that any treatment for sexual offenders must include psychological counseling in order to be truly effective.

Although the United States has used MPA to treat sexually deviant behavior since 1966, the Food and Drug Administration has never approved the drug for that purpose. California was the first state in America to legislate using anti-androgens as punishment for convicted sex offenders, but at least ten other states have followed suit. The use of chemical castration spans the globe, including the United Kingdom where it was used in the 1950s to attempt to cure people of homosexuality. Germany has employed the use of anti-androgens since the 1960s and, after the turn of the millennium, Israel, Poland and South Korea have all legalized the practice.

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Discussion Comments

By anon993132 — On Oct 25, 2015

Castration without consent: I am a Catholic and have lived my life in accordance with The Catechism of the Catholic Church and according to her, the act of masturbation and I quote, "to form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."pg. 2352

By rehtnap — On Mar 02, 2015

I am chemically castrated and have been for a year, but I am not a sex offender. I volunteered for it as my problem was hyper-sexuality linked with bipolar that was getting dangerous physically to myself. The amount of work it took to get on it was tremendous. My last argument was if I smoke, you will help. If I am overweight, you will help, so why, when a treatment is available for my problem do I have to wait until it's too late? I can tell you directly, not from people who have not been through this, that it will kill the hormonal drive, but if there is a mental drive, then don't rely on it having an effect.

It has unfortunately now got such a stigma and is associated with pedophiles, that for anyone outside that bracket, it is nearly impossible to be considered for it. For a lot of people, SSRI antidepressants are prescribed since they lower the libido, some but for some who have a serious sex addiction, those drugs are nearly useless. The numbers of doctors who will deal with it is very, very small; they all run a mile. If a person has sexually offended, then castration, be it chemical or surgical, may only be of partial help for very complex problems.

When the trials were done in the UK with 100 convicted sexual offenders, I believe only 10 ended up on chemical castration. As to the cessation of the physical actions, like erections, then being castrated may have little effect on some people. So, if the offender has a mental drive, then castration may lower his libido, but there is another factor to drive him.

So, does chemical castration work? Yes, for some conditions. Has it been a help for me? Yes. If it were available, I would opt for surgical castration, but that does not appear to be an option so I must stay on tablets for the duration. Because of the vile nature of a lot of sexual offenders, any discussion just becomes a forum for people to vent their anger and there's not a chance to see that it may be a help to some and maybe some before they become offenders. Some may think that hyper sexuality may be a wonderful thing, but believe me: the fun wears off and it's like any addiction. It slowly damages you.

By anon332361 — On Apr 28, 2013

@anon315059: Are you a doctor? My money says no. Easy for you to say. There are more kinds of rape that happen right now and are committed by the very people screaming for blood and torture.

Psychological rape, bullying, racism committed by any race, mental abuse, gender profiling, poverty, classism, civil liberty violations, hazing etc. could all be considered rape. The most judgmental and hypocritical people, by and large, have proven to be in violation of their own religious texts.

Confinement in prisons for crimes is quite acceptable if properly administered, so make the legal system accountable for that. A person going to jail for a sex offense is very close to a death sentence. They lose their job and employment, as well as the loss of prestige in any community for life. They lose their personal belongings and credit rating, go through incarceration, pay court costs, fees, probation. Not to mention the jail/prison conditions. There are many other crimes that have worse consequences for the victims with less punishment. This has become a gender attack and I can tell you personally most men don't speak up if they are raped or sexually abused by women.

It is no less a crime and actually creates more sex offenders than is given credit. We are blaming societal pressures upon the common person. Society is largely to blame for mistreating and isolating people. How about trying to better understand what is actually the cause instead of lashing out in irrational haste and unnatural barbarism? Any one person who is shy, lonely, vulnerable, depressed, severely stressed, OCD, ADHD or self conscious is at high risk for a sex offense. On the other hand, any person who is anti-social, aggressive, control obsessed or angry is at risk for sex offense/rape. There are too many shades of grey here and not enough real work has been done on this subject other than a hasty and questionable social judgment. We have more compassionate laws concerning wild animals than these humans.

This is yet another attempt to reduce mankind to the level of dirt and strip us of our human rights and liberties. This can only get worse. You have to understand our society is going through enormous changes from as far back as integrating minorities into the mainstream and equality, not to mention millions of illegal immigrants who cannot be absorbed or provided for by the our government administrations projections for how many jobs are needed to sustain us. This in itself is enough to have enormous implications and an undercurrent of mental stress and physical stress that isn't being addressed at all.

We are actually enabling other types of deviant personalities with this extremism and they are partly the type responsible for bullying and mental abuse.

By anon315059 — On Jan 21, 2013

The constitutional rights of a person who rapes should be negated as they have ignored and don't give a crap about the rights of the victim.

The fact that they refuse to play by civilized rules of society negates their rights to belong to that system. Rape puts the victim in prison emotionally and sometimes physically for life. Some are harmed to the point of not being about to have children, and we are worried about the constitutional rights of a barbarian. What is wrong with the justice system? We live in the day of DNA and if it is more than obvious that someone has been harmed or damaged, I say cut the guy's testicles off and let him ponder that for the rest of his life.

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