On February 8, 2018, thirty-five-year-old Vaneesa Hopson died due to first responders forcibly drugging her. Sam Costello, a police lieutenant in Olympia, Washington, told The Seattle Post Intelligencer that Hopson pulled the fire alarm at an apartment building. Once police arrived, they detained her for a mental health evaluation, believing she was under the influence of narcotics or experiencing a mental health crisis. Officers decided Hopson needed "chemical restraint." They held her down as paramedics injected her with a drug, the identity of which is not yet publicly known. She became unresponsive and later, after arriving at St. Peter Hospital, she died.
The phrase "chemical restraint" is a political dodge to disguise the horrible practice of forcibly drugging individuals to make them more compliant, easier to manage. Chemical restraint has received a lot of criticism especially its use in correctional facilities and nursing homes. In these facilities individuals are sometimes unnecessarily drugged for long periods of time by staff. The Olympia Police Department states that paramedics injected Hopson with drugs so she could be transported safely. Regardless if this is true or not, arguing that patients need chemical restraint for their own welfare is frequently used to justify forcibly drugging them unnecessarily.
Hopson’s death is currently under investigation. Because of this, Olympia Police and Thurston County Medic One will not release the name of the drug that killed Hopson. However, I spoke to Director of Medic One’s Emergency Services, Kurt Hardin. He told me that the product used to inject Hopson was manufactured by a medical supply company called Cardinal Health. Cardinal Health carries several products that could have potentially been used to inject Hopson. Recently a public records request revealed that Thurston County Medic One purchase the injectable form of the drug Midazolam from Cardinal Health several times in the past year to be used as chemical restraint.
In the Thurston County Medic One Book of Protocols on page 35 next to the words “chemical restraint” is says “Midazolam 10mg IM or IN.” The document also lists some of the protocols for chemical restraint. It states, “If the patient continues to struggle once secured…chemical restraint is indicated.” This possibly explains what occurred on February 8th. Hopson may have struggled when in restraints and because of this she was injected with the drug Midazolam.
Click here to go to Cardinal Health’s website. At the bottom there is a link that says “See our Full Product Catalog.” Click that and enter the word “Midazolam” to find the product that may have been used to inject Vanessa Hopson.
Click here for the Thurston County Medic One Book of Protocols
Midozolam, also known by the brand name Versed, is in a class of drugs known as Benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines include drugs like Valium, Xanax and Ativan. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety. They are one of a variety of drugs used for chemical restraint.
In medicine, benzodiazepines are generally considered safe. However, doctors habitually underestimate the danger that Benzodiazepines pose. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and extremely difficult to withdraw from. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is described as hell by some. While benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety many have reported that anxiety returns after long term use of these drugs. This may cause a vicious circle in which the longer a person takes the drug the more they increase the dosage to treat their anxiety.
Midazolam can also cause sudden death. A person can overdose from Midazolam just like opiates, such as Morphine and heroin. If taken in high enough doses, Midozolam can cause respiratory depression, which can be deadly. The dosage for a prescription of Midozolam is usually 1mg to 2.5mg. The Thurston County Medic One Protocols list the dosage and drug for chemical restraint as “Midozolam 10mg IM or IN.” This is a very high dose of the drug. It’s possible Hopson died as a result of an injection of Midozolam. It is also possible Hopson already had drugs in her system and she died because of the combination of Midozolam and the other drugs.
Abolish Chemical Restraint
I am not an advocate of restraint by any means, but I understand that if someone is a danger to others they should be restrained. Ideally, intervention should occur before people reach the point of needing restraint. However, so called chemical restraint should be abolished.
Chemical restraint is often misused. In practice, facilities like nursing homes and jails use chemical restraint as an additional form of controlling behavior. For example, in a juvenile detention facility, a person might be forcibly drugged in addition to or instead of put in physical restraints or given solitary confinement. Chemical restraint is sometimes used to make work for staff easier, like reducing a patient’s ability to self-advocate or cause trouble. Citing a person’s supposed mental health problems in order to use chemical restraint is really just an excuse to forcibly drug them.
Also, chemical restraint is unsafe. All drugs used for chemical restraint can cause death. If Hopson hadn’t been injected with drugs it is likely she would still be alive today.
Something about the term “chemical restraint” is inherently disturbing. It is a veneer covering a frightening truth. Olympia police state that Hopson was injected with drugs so she could be transported safely in an ambulance. Hopson wasn’t injected with chemicals because she needed them for her physical health. She was injected with drugs as a means of controlling her behavior.
A mental health evaluation is a medical procedure. Hopson was restrained by first responders for a medical reason. Because of this, first responders could subdue her using medical means. Chemical restraint is a medical way of controlling a person’s behavior.
Medical knowledge and technology are increasingly used as social control in western society. It is part of the work, academic, and correctional environment. Today, employees at a company may be forced to seek psychiatric treatment or face termination. Children who act up in class are diagnosed with psychiatric illness and given psychotropic drugs. Juvenile delinquents who misbehave are chemically restrained in correctional facilities.
Psychiatry is a form of medical social control. It eliminates bad or "undesirable" behavior from society by diagnosing and treating people for mental illness. Mental health conditions are invented by doctors and pharmaceutical companies to include an ever widening scope of problem behaviors. These behaviors can then be controlled using medical means.
Medical social control eliminates "undesirable" behavior in frightening ways. Medicine treats illness by altering or manipulating a person’s body. When a person has cancer their body may undergo surgery or chemotherapy to eliminate the cancer. Medical social control may eliminate bad behavior the same way, by altering a person’s body. Medical control might involve administering different chemicals or performing surgery on a person who misbehaves. For example, in the 1950’s, the pre-frontal lobotomy was used widely on mental patients who exhibited aggressive behavior.
When we hear that someone was “chemically restrained,” if feels wrong. It is because we know that the sanctity of someone’s body was violated to control their behavior. This is the danger of medical social control.
Mental Health Police
Officially it was a medical decision to inject Vanessa Hopson with drugs. However, according to thesplinternews.com Hopson was held down by police when she was injected. Police were involved in the act of forcibly drugging Vaneesa Hopson.
Police restraining individuals for mental health reasons is nothing new. However, the manner in which Vaneesa Hopson died causes me to reflect on an important trend. As more problematic behavior are seen as mental illness the more that administering mental health treatment becomes part the job description for police.
Many do not realize that in the U.S. police work on behalf of the mental health system. Deciding if someone should be detained for a mental health evaluation is largely up to the discretion of a police officer. Police are usually the first to intervene when someone is in mental health crisis.
In my opinion, there are aspects of this trend that are positive. For example, arguably, because more individuals are seen as mentally ill police receive training on how to deal with people who are in mental health crisis. This helps ensure the safety of both officers and the public. However, there is a frightening consequence of this trend.
It’s possible that in the in the future the scope of behavior that are seen as mental illness will widen to include all problem behavior including all forms of criminality. If this transpires police will no longer be agents of the legal system; they will be agents of psychiatry. A new kind of police brutality may emerge where police forcibly subject members of the public to psychiatric treatments, like chemical restraint.
This isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. It may desirable for the police to use medical technology as a way of controlling criminals. Police may argue that using medical technology this way makes their job safer. Also, because mental health treatment is considered a medical procedure it can be (and often is) administered to individuals in violation of their right to due process. Civil liberties, like the right to due process, will not prevent widespread use of psychiatric treatment to control criminals.
Imagine a world where if you shop lift a loaf of bread to feed your family police claim that you are in “crisis” and need to be chemically restrained. Unfortunately, this world may become a reality.
This post will be updated as more news of Vaneesa Hopson’s death develops.