Chemical restraint

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A chemical restraint is a form of medical restraint in which a drug is used to restrict the freedom or movement of a patient or in some cases to sedate a patient. These are used in emergency, acute, and psychiatric settings to control unruly patients who are interfering with their care or who are otherwise harmful to themselves or others in their vicinity. Chemical restraints are also referred to as a "Psychopharmacologic Agent", "Psychotropic Drug" or "Therapeutic Restraints" in certain legal writing.[1][2]

Drugs that are often used as chemical restraints include benzodiazepines,[3] antipsychotics, and Dissociative anesthetics.

In the United States, no drugs are presently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as chemical restraints.[4] According to OBRA 1987 (Federal Nursing Home Reform Act), individuals have the right to be free from physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.[5] However, they are still used, and the FDA estimates 15,000 elderly individuals die each year by use of unnecessary anti-psychotics in nursing homes.[6]

The use of chemical restraint has been criticized. It has been found to be mismanaged by health care workers for the convenience of the staff rather than the benefit of the patient, as workers use them to prevent patients from resisting care rather than improving the health of the patient.[7] This has been found to cause more confusion in patients, thereby slowing their recovery.[8]