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23.1 Aggressive Disruptive Behaviour

Table of Contents

These are agitated and acutely disturbed patients, who may or may not have a psychiatric condition. Many acute medical conditions and substance abuse can also present with agitation.

Diagnostic Criteria

  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behaviour

Non-Pharmacological Treatment

  • Ensure the safety of the patient and those caring for them.
  • Caution is needed with elderly and frail patients as they are vulnerable to falls and further injury if sedated.
  • The use of physical restraint should only be employed when there is a need to protect the patient and surrounding people in an acute setting and it should be for as short time as possible with a constant monitoring of patients safety
  • Assess for sign of delirium.

De-escalation Techniques should be Attempted first:

  • Calm the patient
  • Manage in a safe environment
  • Ensure the safety of all staff members

Pharmacological Treatment

C: Diazepam, 10 mg (PO) stat


C: Lorazepam, 4 mg, (PO) stat

If oral treatment fails after 30–60 minutes, OR If there is significant risk to the patient and others give

Parenteral treatment as follows:

A: Haloperidol 5 mg (IM) repeat in 30–60 minutes, if required. (Max dose: 20 mg within 24 hours)


A: Diazepam 10 mg (IV), stat. Repeat after 30–60 minutes if needed.


A: Promethazine 25–50 mg (deep IM). Repeat after 30–60 minutes if needed.


C: Lorazepam 4 mg (IM), stat. Repeat after 30–60 minutes if needed 3.

If haloperidol is unavailable,

A: Chlorpromazine 25–50 mg (deep IM). May be repeated as necessary 4 times in 24 hours.

If patient is known to suffer from schizophrenia and is not neuroleptic naïve give:

S: Zuclopenthixol acetate 50–150 mg (IM) Repeat after 2–3 days, if necessary

If patient develops acute dystonia give:

A: Promethazine deep IM 25–50 mg. In the elderly 25 mg.


Anticholinergic agent, e.g.: S: Biperiden, IM/IV, 2 mg. Repeat as necessary.


Note: repeated doses of high potency antipsychotics may lead to the development of the life-threatening neuroleptic malignant syndrome, characterized by hyperthermia, muscle rigidity, autonomic dysfunction and alterations in consciousness. Serum CK is typically markedly elevated. If suspected, stop antipsychotic, and institute supportive care. *Always monitor vital signs of sedated patients

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