The Devastating Impact of “Excited Delirium”

Campaign Zero and Physicians for Human Rights partner to develop a resource website on “excited delirium”

Campaign Zero (CZ) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) are partnering to raise awareness about the medically-baseless concept of “excited delirium,” which has been misused to explain deaths in police custody for decades, disproportionately those of Black men in the United States.

This jointly-led initiative challenges the baseless concept often cited to justify excessive force and obscure links between force and death, disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities. The initiative’s launch is marked by a comprehensive resource hub at to help a wide range of audiences to understand the problematic history of “excited delirium” and to support the ongoing advocacy efforts underway across the country to end use of “excited delirium” once and for all. 

The website is based on the 2022 PHR report titled “Excited Delirium” and Deaths in Police Custody: The Deadly Impact of a Baseless Diagnosis. Since the report’s release, every major U.S. medical association has disavowed the concept of “excited delirium”. The state of California has banned the use of the concept, as has Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department, and the police training company Lexipol. 

Using this momentum, PHR and CZ are collaborating to share resources to educate the public and support advocacy efforts to address police violence across the United States. Both organizations will continue to work with impacted families and communities to change medical practice, law enforcement policy, and state law in order to end “excited delirium.” 

“Excited delirium” is a non-scientific diagnosis used by law enforcement and first responders to justify use of force against civilians, and by medical examiners and coroners to obscure any connection between the cause of death and the use of force. The concept garnered national attention after one of the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd asked whether Mr. Floyd was experiencing “excited delirium.”

For more information, visit our website Please email us at to work with this campaign. If you or someone you know has been involved with an incident of “excited delirium,” please report it to us. 

About Physicians for Human Rights

For more than 35 years, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has used science and the uniquely credible voices of medical professionals to document and call attention to severe human rights violations around the world. PHR, which shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to end the scourge of landmines, uses its investigations and expertise to advocate for persecuted health workers and facilities under attack, prevent torture, document mass atrocities, and hold those who violate human rights accountable.

About Campaign Zero 

Campaign Zero is a data-driven organization started by activists to provide information and tools to end police violence. Campaign Zero encourages organizers, activists, and policymakers to focus on solutions with the strongest evidence of effectiveness at reducing police violence. 

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