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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 56 (2014) 10, 640 - 648

New research

Involuntary medication as the intervention of choice: can this be regarded as ‘substitution’ or as a preventive measure? A prospective cohort study

A.A. Verlinde, W. Snelleman, H. van den Berg, E.O. Noorthoorn

background Since the Dutch Mental Health Act of 1984 came into effect, seclusion has often been used as the measure of choice for dealing with aggressive or dangerous patients. In 2012 the Ministry of Health formulated a policy whereby seclusion was to be phased out, but not replaced by involuntary medication. In 2007, within the framework of the Mental Health Act, the Argus system of registering coercive measures was introduced in order to monitor the reduction in the use of seclusion and involuntary medication. This article describes, in a longitudinal cohort study, the effect of the policy to reduce aggression by replacing seclusion through the use of involuntary medication or other measures.
aim To investigate whether, in the long run, a reduction in the use of seclusion will lead to a proportional increase in the use of involuntary medication, and to assess whether this policy can really be termed ‘substitution.’
method We performed this study by analysing Argus data for the period 2007-2011, relating to 1843 patients being treated by Mediant. esults The changing proportions of seclusion and involuntary medication over time demonstrated that the use of involuntary medication did result in patients being secluded for a shorter period of time.
conclusion In the case of dangerous psychiatric patients, medication, administered forcibly when necessary, is preferable to seclusion as far as subsidiarity, proportionality and expediency are concerned. A strategy whereby medication provides appropriate treatment and seclusion is kept within reasonable limits cannot be termed ‘substitution’.

keywords coercive measures, Dutch Mental Health Act, involuntary medication, prevention, seclusion, substitution