Abuse of sedation for behaviour modification

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Institutional misuse of sedative drugs
Misuse of drugs for social control
Excessive use of behavioural medication

'Behaviour modification' techniques involving drugs are increasingly used on groups of people who are not always in a position, or given the opportunity, to give their free and informed consent to such procedures. The three major groups involved are hyperkinetic children, the mentally ill and prison inmates. The techniques may be used mainly or exclusively to control dissidents, including political dissenters.


Amphetamines and methyl phenidrate have been administered to children diagnosed as having minimal brain dysfunction, a state characterized by hyperactivity, inattentiveness, diminished perception and physical and social awkwardness. It has been argued that such treatment has produced dramatic effects in alleviating these problems and enabling the hyperkinetic child to achieve greater success both academically and socially. Tranquilizers have been used in hospitals for the mentally ill and the aged, and various drugs have been used to modify the behaviour of prison inmates. Such uses, for non-medical purposes, raise questions regarding the human rights of the persons involved.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
24.03.2022 – 00:57 CET