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Calming Down: Could Sedative Drugs Be a Less-Lethal Option?

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 261 Dated: October 2008 Pages: 42-47
Date Published
October 2008
6 pages
This article draws on the findings of research sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in examining whether sedative drugs could be a more effective less-lethal option than conducted-energy devices (CEDs) and other traditional less-lethal devices used by law enforcement officers in subduing hostile, belligerent, or potentially dangerous suspects.
Research projects that have examined the possibility of safely exposing someone to a pharmaceutical raise issues that must be addressed. These issues include the selection of an appropriate pharmaceutical, determining the appropriate dosage in the absence of a suspect’s known medical history, whether an antidote or reversal agent is available, appropriate methods of delivering the drug, and whether a law enforcement officer could be trained to use certain drugs in the absence of a medically trained professional. According to a 2001 study, in order to be useful as a less-lethal option, a calming agent should ideally have a fast onset; produce approximately the same magnitude of calm in people of similar body mass index and age range with a given dose; have a short or limited duration of effect; have reversible effects; have no prolonged toxicity; and be easy to store and administer. One of the study’s researchers highlighted the drug carfentanil as meriting further investigation. It is used to sedate large animals and is delivered intramuscularly, intravenously, and orally. This article also discusses when calming agents would be used and legal considerations. The article advises that additional research is needed in determining whether there is a safe drug option available that could help officers deal with critical situations safely and effectively. 9 notes

Date Published: October 1, 2008