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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Psychopharmacology of Agitation: Consensus Statement of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry Project BETA Psychopharmacology Workgroup

  • Author(s): Wilson, Michael P.;
  • Pepper, David;
  • Currier, Glenn W.;
  • Holloman, Garland H.;
  • Feifel, David
  • et al.

Agitation is common in the medical and psychiatric emergency department, and appropriate management of agitation is a core competency for emergency clinicians. In this article, the authors review the use of a variety of first-generation antipsychotic drugs, second-generation antipsychotic agents, and benzodiazepines for treatment of acute agitation, and propose specific guidelines for treatment of agitation associated with a variety of conditions, including acute intoxication, psychiatric illness, delirium, and multifocal or idiopathic causes. Pharmacologic treatment of agitation should be based on an assessment of the most likely cause for the agitation. If agitation results from a medical condition or delirium, clinicians should first attempt to treat this underlying cause instead of simply medicating with antipsychotics or benzodiazepines. [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(1):26–34.]

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