The Dallas Police Department has adopted new policies to prevent deaths caused by excited delirium, a severe chemical imbalance often caused by drug use that can leave agitated people dead within minutes of police intervention, the Dallas Morning News reports. Officers will call for a supervisor and an ambulance every time they suspect a person is in a state of excited delirium, which is typically caused by cocaine or methamphetamine use. Drug users suffering from an episode may have accelerated heart rates and body temperatures over 100 degrees. Many are overweight and become violent and erratic, jumping through windows and running about wildly. Hallucinations of bugs crawling on the skin and paranoia are common symptoms.
Dr. Vincent Di Maio, the chief medical examiner at the Bexar County office in San Antonio, said about 90 percent of individuals who suffer from excited delirium are cocaine or methamphetamine users. Between 1997 and 2005, excited delirium contributed to the deaths of about 30 people in Bexar County, about half of them cocaine users. Dr. Di Maio said officers should avoid struggling with unruly people and instead calm them down before restraining them. When that doesn’t work, he suggested officers use a Taser gun. Pepper spray won’t help subdue people in a state of excited delirium. “You don’t want to fight for 20 minutes,” he said, adding that such people should be taken to a hospital for treatment, not jailed.