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Serotonin Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

Serotonin syndrome is a drug reaction that is caused by high levels of serotonin in your body. A severe reaction can be life-threatening. Drugs that affect serotonin levels, interactions between 2 or more drugs, and drug overdoses increase your risk. Even when used as directed, prescription drugs to treat depression, seizures, migraines, pain, vomiting, and Parkinson disease can lead to serotonin syndrome. St John's wort, cocaine, ecstasy, and cough syrup that contains dextromethorphan may also cause it.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Activated charcoal may be given to absorb toxic levels of medicines that increase serotonin. Toxic levels can occur if you took too much medicine. Activated charcoal may cause vomiting.
  • Antianxiety medicine may be given to help you feel calm, slow your heart rate, and reduce muscle spasms. Fewer muscle spasms may help lower a high fever.
  • Sedatives may be given to calm you and help lower your fever and blood pressure.


  • Vital signs are taken to monitor your condition. Vital signs include your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature.
  • Telemetry is the use of EKG to monitor your heart. Sticky pads are placed on your skin and attached to a monitor. This allows healthcare providers to monitor your heart's electrical activity for fast or slow heartbeats.

Blood tests:

Blood tests are done to check your kidney function. Blood tests also help healthcare providers know if your blood is clotting as it should.


  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your airway through your mouth or nose. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is an airway tube put into an incision in the front of your neck. The ET tube or trach is attached to the ventilator.
  • IV fluids are given to help flush waste from your kidneys.
  • External cooling is the use of cooling blankets, cool baths, and fans to lower your fever.
  • Medicine to reverse the effects of serotonin syndrome may be given.


You could develop an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are the minerals in your blood that help your nerves and muscles work properly. Your heart could be damaged from beating too fast or too slow. Your blood may not clot properly, which could lead to heavy bleeding or organ damage. Your lungs or kidneys could fail. You could have a high fever that can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.