Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing


BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 17 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6070
  1. Owen Dyer, freelance journalist, Montreal
  1. owen_dyer{at}

Tasers are increasingly being used by UK police yet recent studies suggest the health risks are greater than previously thought. Owen Dyer reports

How much are Tasers being used?

Conducted electrical weapons are used by over 16 000 police forces in 107 countries, and most use the X26, made by Taser International of Arizona. In the United Kingdom, use of Tasers tripled between 2009, when police officers not trained in firearms were first allowed to carry them, and 2013. Police drew Tasers on 10 380 UK civilians aged 14-85 years in 2013 and fired them in 20% of those cases. Worldwide, Tasers have shocked people roughly 1.35 million times, 650 000 of them during arrests and stops and 700 000 during police training.

How do they work?

The pistol shaped device uses compressed nitrogen to fire two barbed electrical probes that deliver a pulsed 50 000 volt shock, causing intense skeletal muscle contractions and pain. …

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