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 the patient. Chemical restraint is used in emergency, acute, and psychiatric settings to reduce agitation, aggression or violent behaviours;[a] it may also be used to control or punish unruly behaviours. Chemical restraint is also referred to as a "Psychopharmacologic Agent", "Psychotropic Drug" or "Therapeutic Restraints" in certain legal writing.
In the UK, NICE recommends the use chemical restraint for acute behaviour disturbances, but only after verbal calming and descalation techniques have been attempted. It is viewed as superior to physical restraint, with physical restraints only being recommended for the administration of a chemical restraint.[b]
In the United States, no drugs are presently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as chemical restraints. Drugs that are often used as chemical restraints include benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and dissociative anesthetics such as ketamine. A systematic review in 2019 advised the use of intravenous haloperidol (a short half-life, first-generation antipsychotic) alone or in conjunction with lorazepam or midazolam (short half-life benzodiazapines), but said more research was needed.[c]
The Human Rights Watch wrote a report on the use of chemical restraints amongst the elderly in the US. It concluded that antipsychotic drugs are sometimes almost by default to control difficult to manage residents. The FDA estimates 15,000 elderly individuals in nursing homes die each year due to the unnecessary use of anti-psychotics. According to the 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.
The use of chemical restraint has been criticized. It is sometimes misused by health care workers for the convenience of the staff rather than the benefit of the patient, with workers using them to prevent patients from resisting care rather than improving the health of the patient; it can cause more confusion in patients, slowing their recovery; and it can be unclear whether drugs that used for chemical restraint are necessary to treat an underlying mental health condition or whether they are being used to sedate the patient. Patients can view chemical restraint as a violation of integrity and the experience and find the experience traumatic.[d]
- "Chemical restraint, also known as rapid tranquilisation,is the use of psychotropic medication to control severeagitation, or violent behaviours." 
- "Sedation (rapid tranquilisation) will be required to facilitate rapid intervention and institutionof potentially lifesaving treatments if an individual displaying ABD fails to respond to de-escalation techniques. The rapid control and calming of an individual displaying the extreme physical exertion associated with ABD is essential to prevent furtherworsening of their metabolic status3.Ideally sedation should be administered via the intravenous route however this route is unlikely to be immediately available." "Guidelines for the Management of Excited Delirium / Acute Behavioural Disturbance (ABD)" (PDF).
- "While there is a sizeable, goodquality body of RCT evidence regarding chemicalrestraint practices from around the world, the interventions, outcome measures, and findings are heterogenousand preclude more than simple description. On the current evidence base from RCTs, front-line clinicians could be advised to use haloperidol (alone or in combination with lorazepam or midazolam) delivered via IV,oral, or IM methods, to safely, speedily, and effectivelycontrol agitated, aggressive, and violent behaviours."
- "Chemical restraint can furthermore be experi-enced as a violation of integrity and causepsychological discomfort"; "Further, the individual experience of any form of restraint is well recognized as traumatizing and anti-therapeutic".:15
- Muir‐Cochrane, Eimear; Oster, Candice; Gerace, Adam; Dawson, Suzanne; Damarell, Raechel; Grimmer, Karen (2019-09-09). "The effectiveness of chemical restraint in managing acute agitation and aggression: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials". International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. Wiley. 29 (2): 110–126. doi:10.1111/inm.12654. ISSN 1445-8330.
- ""They Want Docile"". Human Rights Watch. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "PHYSICAL RESTRAINT, MEDICATION AND SECLUSION OF PERSONS RECEIVING CARE, EDUCATION OR SUPERVISION IN A SCHOOL, INSTITUTION OR FACILITY". cga.ct.gov. Archived from the original on 2016-03-09. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- OFDT (15 February 2011). "Juvenile Federal Performance-Based Detention Standards Handbook" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Fleisher, G.R.; Ludwig, S.; Henretig, F.M. (2006). Textbook of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 355. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 1–1812. ISBN 9780781750745. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- DiMaio, T.G.; DiMaio, V.J.M. (2005). Excited Delirium Syndrome: Cause of Death and Prevention. Taylor & Francis. p. 125. ISBN 9780203483473. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "ABC World News: Deadly 'Chemical Restraints' Kill California Nursing Home Patients - ABC News". abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- State of Connecticut (8 March 2007). "RESTRAINTS" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- O'Donnell, J.; Ahuja, G.D. (2005). Drug Injury: Liability, Analysis, and Prevention. Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company. pp. 1–723. ISBN 9780913875278. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Nay, R.; Garratt, S. (2004). Nursing Older People: Issues and Innovations. Churchill Livingstone. p. 246. ISBN 9780729537513. Retrieved 2014-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)