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The Sedation Cocktail
The Sedation Cocktail

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More than 250 foreigners without mental illness have been sedated for deportation during the past five years. Most of them have been injected with a cocktail consisting of two or three drugs, although a few were given different medications in the earlier years.

During the 2007 fiscal year, ending in October, 50 people were injected with Haldol without a psychiatric reason, according to a Washington Post analysis based on government records. All those people also were given Ativan, and all but three were given Cogentin as well. Two deportees received Ativan alone, and one person's medications were not clear from the records. Here is a look at the major drugs in the government's sedation cocktail.

The Most Potent Drug

HALDOL (a.k.a. HALOPERIDOL)

Antipsychotic medication

USES {vbar} Schizophrenia, psychosis induced by street drugs or any medical condition, persistent aggressiveness that may be a danger to patient or others, Tourette's syndrome, manic disorder.

WHAT IT DOES {vbar} For people with severe psychiatric illness, can help them think more clearly, feel less nervous and prevent suicide in those who are likely to harm themselves. Can also reduce aggression and a desire to hurt others. Calming to psychotic people who hallucinate or are delusional. Produces a more "zombie-like" effect in non-psychotic people.

SIDE EFFECTS {vbar} Dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty urinating, trouble sleeping, headache, anxiety and pain at the injection site. May cause muscle spasms or stiffness, tremors, restless- ness, masklike facial expression, drooling.

RECOMMENDED DAILY DOSES {vbar} For aggressive behavior, 0.5 milligrams twice a day to

5 milligrams three times a day, although doses of up to 10 milligrams a day may be used in a hospital emergency room. Number of detainees who were given a total of . . .

The Other Drugs

ATIVAN (a.k.a. LORAZEPAM)

Benzodiazepine

USES {vbar} Anxiety, seizures, pre-surgery.

WHAT IT DOES {vbar} Produces a calming effect on the brain and the central nervous system.

SIDE EFFECTS {vbar} Dizziness, drowsiness, slurred speech, unsteadiness.

COGENTIN

Anti-cholinergic agent that relaxes muscles

by acting within the brain

USES {vbar} Parkinson's disease, involuntary movements due to side effects of some psychiatric drugs, including Haldol.

WHAT IT DOES {vbar} Helps decrease muscle stiffness, sweating and saliva production, and helps improve walking ability in people with Parkinson's.

SIDE EFFECTS {vbar} Blurred vision, constipation, decreased sweating, drowsiness, dry nose,

dry throat, painful urination, nausea.

SOURCES: Medscape; WebMD; Philip Seeman, professor of psychiatry

and pharmacology, University of Toronto

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