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In the News

Excited Delirium course stresses recognition of condition

Monday, March 07, 2016

Incidents of excited delirium create a number of challenges for peace officers, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel, and dispatchers as they respond to the substance induced medical condition. A March 25 Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) course, Excited Delirium, will educate public safety personnel on the best practices for recognizing, responding, and treating a subject with excited delirium.

“The (Excited Delirium) condition itself is always changing,” said Doug Wheless, the Lieutenant over the Medical Department in the Williamson County Jail, who is teaching the course. “There are always new examples of incidents, and the technology, practices and legal response behind the methods used to handle excited delirium incidents are always changing, too. This course will be beneficial to everyone in the public safety field.”

One of the first challenges public safety officers face is recognizing the symptoms of excited delirium and distinguishing it from other medical and mental conditions. People suffering from the condition can become violent, paranoid, appear to have superhuman strength and can suffer from asphyxia and hyperthermia. A subject in this state often removes their clothes, becomes aggressive to objects — especially glass, hides, thrashes in restraints and can cause further harm to themselves and others.

Similar side effects can be found in people suffering from schizophrenia and even strokes. By the end of the course, students will understand the differences between multiple ailments, so they can react appropriately.

“You don’t want to treat everyone like a drug addict that is acting out of control,” Wheless said. “You need to recognize that this is a medical emergency first.”

Excited Delirium Course Details

Course Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 25, 2016
Location: Mesquite Conference Room
CAPCOG Training Center
6800 Burleson Road, Building 310
Austin, TX 78744
Number of TCOLE CEUs: 8 Hours
> Register for the course
Registration Deadline: March 18, 2016

The violent and delirious nature of the subject’s condition also poses a challenge for those responding to the incidents. Officers often have to use force to subdue a subject, which can exacerbate the condition. The condition itself can be fatal, but this course teaches officers how to reduce that risk by using proper, specialized restraining methods and administering basic medical response so the subject can be transported safely to an emergency room for treatment. Each year there are between 250 to 350 in-custody deaths related to excited delirium incidents; this course aims to prevent those fatalities.

“This training teaches officers to recognize this condition as quickly as possible and have emergency medical services respond as quickly as possible while still protecting the subject, others and the officer,” said Randy Holmes, RLEA director.

An increase in the use of drugs that cause excited delirium such as K2, spice, bath salts, methamphetamine and cocaine combined with the subject’s bizarre behavior and officer response has caused many of these incidents to garner national media attention. Officers enrolled in this course will learn the importance of properly documenting these incidents to accurately portray the subject’s state and the officer’s response.

“The course teaches the safest way to handle a difficult, no win situation,” Wheless said. “Excited delirium is something that is not going to go away, and it is going to get worse and worse. We have to have a setup protocol that is defensible in a court of law.”

Wheless’ Excited Delirium course is backed by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

> Find other RLEA courses.
> Discover RLEA.

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