Electrical weapons and excited delirium: shocks, stress, and serum serotonin Academic Article uri icon


  • It has been suggested that a CEW (conducted electrical weapon) exposure could elicit a stress response that could cause ExDS (excited delirium syndrome). There are some parallels between the signs of ExDS and serotonin syndrome (SS). Electroconvulsive therapy raises serotonin levels and therefore provides a plausible link between CEW applications and elevated serotonin levels. This study was designed to determine whether a CEW exposure elevates serum serotonin. A total of 31 police academy cadets were exposed to a very broad-spread 5-s CEW stimulus from a TASER brand X26 CEW. Blood was drawn before and after the exposure and at 24 h post exposure to measure serum serotonin levels. Lactic acid and cortisol levels were also compared. Median serum serotonin levels were 30 IQR (21,46), 36 IQR (22,50), and 32 IQR (21,45) ng/mL before exposure, after exposure, and 24 h after exposure (NS by pooled comparisons). The increase from baseline to post-test serotonin (∆ median = +6, ∆ mean = +2.7) ng/mL was not significant by a paired T-test (p = .29) but was significant by the Wilcoxon signed-rank test (p = .037). The increase to post-test log serotonin was not significant by a paired T-test (p = .13) but was significant by the Wilcoxon test (p = .049). All serotonin levels remained within the normal reference range of 0-200 ng/mL. Post-hoc analysis demonstrated that the study was powered to detect a ½ SD change, in log serotonin, with a 90% likelihood. With a very-broad electrode spread, CEW exposure did not significantly raise serum serotonin levels.

altmetric score

  • 4.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Kroll, M. W., Hail, S. L., Kroll, R. M., Wetli, C. V., & Criscione, J. C.

citation count

  • 3

publication date

  • December 2018