What is the "Benadryl Challenge"

Unveiling the hazards of the Benadryl Challenge: FDA warnings, tragic incidents, and TikTok's role in promoting awareness. Stay informed!

James Ekbatani
July 5, 2024

Understanding Harmful Challenges

In today's digital age, social media platforms have become breeding grounds for various challenges and trends. While some challenges promote positive and creative activities, others can pose serious risks to individuals, especially vulnerable populations such as teenagers. Understanding the influence of social media and the risks associated with online trends is crucial in addressing the harmful impact they can have.

Social Media Influence

Social media platforms provide a space for individuals to share their experiences, connect with others, and seek validation. Challenges like the "Benadryl Challenge" gain traction when combined with the ability to broadcast impulsive or dangerous behaviors on social media. Teenagers, in particular, may participate in these challenges driven by the need for validation and acceptance, with 'likes' serving as a quick form of validation [1].

Teens' interest in social media challenges can be influenced by emotions such as sadness, boredom, and anger, as well as the desire for impulsiveness and fun with friends. The instant gratification and attention received from participating in these challenges can further reinforce engagement in risky behaviors [1]. It is important to recognize the role social media plays in the spread and popularity of harmful challenges, and to raise awareness about the potential consequences.

Risks of Online Trends

The emergence of online trends and challenges brings inherent risks, particularly when they involve the misuse of substances or dangerous activities. The "Benadryl Challenge" is one such trend that has gained attention in recent times. This challenge encourages young people to consume dangerous amounts of the over-the-counter drug diphenhydramine (DHP), commonly found in products like Benadryl. Participants are urged to take as many as 12 tablets at a time to induce hallucinations [1].

Exceeding the recommended dosage of diphenhydramine can lead to severe health consequences, including nausea, seizures, or even death. It is important to note that the maximum allowed dose in a 24-hour period is six tablets for children aged 6 to under 12 years and 12 tablets for adults and children over 12 years of age. Engaging in such challenges poses serious risks to the physical and mental well-being of individuals.

Understanding the risks associated with online trends is crucial for both teenagers and their parents or guardians. By recognizing the potential dangers and promoting education about the consequences of participating in harmful challenges, we can work towards creating a safer online environment and protecting vulnerable individuals from harm.

The Benadryl Challenge Explained

The "Benadryl challenge" is a dangerous social media trend that emerged in 2020. It involves the deliberate consumption of excessive doses of diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl. Participants in this challenge take large amounts of Benadryl in an attempt to experience hallucinations and delirium, often recording themselves and sharing the videos on social media platforms like TikTok Clear Steps Recovery.

Origin and Spread

The exact origin of the Benadryl challenge is unclear, but it gained attention and popularity through various social media platforms, particularly TikTok. Users would record themselves taking substantial amounts of Benadryl to induce hallucinations and share these videos online. The challenge quickly spread and garnered a significant amount of attention, particularly among young people Clear Steps Recovery.

The Dangers Involved

Participating in the Benadryl challenge poses serious health risks. Overdosing on diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, can lead to what is known as anticholinergic toxidrome. This condition affects various organ systems in the body, including the nervous and cardiovascular systems. The high doses of diphenhydramine can cause severe adverse effects such as confusion, psychosis, organ damage, coma, and, in extreme cases, death.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued strong warnings about the dangers of purposefully overdosing on diphenhydramine. Intentionally consuming high doses of Benadryl can result in serious heart problems, seizures, coma, and even death, particularly in otherwise healthy young adults.

It is crucial to understand that the Benadryl challenge is not a safe or harmless activity. The risks associated with this trend are severe and potentially life-threatening. It is important to educate oneself and others about these dangers to prevent further harm.

FDA Warnings and Reactions

The "Benadryl Challenge" gained significant attention and concern, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue warnings regarding the dangers associated with the misuse of diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl. Taking higher than recommended doses of diphenhydramine can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death.

FDA Alerts on Benadryl

In response to the alarming rise of the "Benadryl Challenge" on platforms like TikTok, the FDA issued a warning in 2020. The FDA contacted TikTok to remove videos related to the challenge and urged vigilance to prevent the posting of additional videos promoting this dangerous trend. The FDA continues to monitor the situation and is conducting a review to determine if additional cases related to the "Benadryl Challenge" have been reported. They will update the public accordingly [2].

Responses from Johnson & Johnson

As the maker of Benadryl, Johnson & Johnson has labeled the "Benadryl Challenge" as "dangerous" and has emphasized that the ingestion of excessive quantities of diphenhydramine should be stopped immediately. They are actively working with TikTok and other social platforms to remove content that promotes this behavior. Johnson & Johnson's response highlights their commitment to addressing and mitigating the risks associated with the challenge [3].

The collaboration between the FDA, Johnson & Johnson, and platforms like TikTok aims to raise awareness and take preventive measures to protect individuals, especially teenagers, from the harmful effects of the "Benadryl Challenge." It is crucial for both regulatory bodies and manufacturers to continue their efforts in educating the public and removing content that promotes dangerous trends.

Understanding the FDA's alerts and the responses from Johnson & Johnson provides valuable insight into the seriousness of the "Benadryl Challenge" and the measures being taken to address this hazardous trend. It is essential for individuals and communities to stay informed about the risks associated with such challenges and prioritize safety and well-being above participating in potentially harmful online trends.

Impact on Teenagers

The "Benadryl Challenge" has had devastating consequences, particularly for teenagers who have been drawn into this dangerous trend. Tragic incidents involving the misuse of Benadryl have highlighted the severe risks associated with this challenge.

Tragic Incidents

One of the most heartbreaking incidents related to the Benadryl Challenge involved a 13-year-old boy from Ohio named Jacob Stevens. He tragically lost his life after consuming a large quantity of Benadryl as part of the challenge. Jacob was on a ventilator for nearly a week before passing away [3]. Another similar incident occurred in Columbus, Ohio, where a 13-year-old also died after consuming over a dozen Benadryl tablets. This led to critical brain damage and a six-day stay in intensive care before the teenager's passing. TikTok expressed sympathy for the family and reiterated their prohibition of such content on the platform [4]. These tragic incidents serve as painful reminders of the dangers associated with participating in the Benadryl Challenge.

Health Implications

Consuming excessive amounts of Benadryl can have severe health implications, particularly for teenagers who are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of medication misuse. Benadryl is an antihistamine that can cause significant side effects when taken in large doses. Overdosing on Benadryl can lead to seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, organ damage, and in some cases, even death [5]. The challenge's intention, to induce hallucinations, puts participants at an increased risk of experiencing delirium, confusion, and psychosis, further endangering their physical and mental well-being [6]. It is crucial to understand that misusing any medication, including Benadryl, can have serious consequences and should never be taken lightly.

The tragic incidents and health implications associated with the Benadryl Challenge serve as powerful reminders of the importance of educating teenagers about the risks of participating in dangerous online trends. By promoting awareness and providing accurate information, we can help prevent further harm and protect the well-being of our young generation.

TikTok's Role and Interventions

As the Benadryl Challenge gained traction on social media platforms, including TikTok, concerns about the potential harm it posed prompted the platform to take action. TikTok recognized the risks and dangers associated with the challenge and implemented several interventions to limit its spread and protect its users.

Platform Regulations

TikTok has acknowledged the seriousness of the Benadryl Challenge and taken steps to discourage its promotion and dissemination. The platform has prohibited the use of hashtags like "Benadryl" and "BenadrylChallenge" and disabled related search suggestions. These measures aim to minimize the visibility and accessibility of harmful content associated with the challenge [7].

By blocking specific hashtags and search suggestions, TikTok aims to prevent users from easily finding and engaging with content related to the dangerous challenge. This proactive approach demonstrates the platform's commitment to user safety and responsible content moderation.

Preventive Measures

TikTok's response to the Benadryl Challenge goes beyond platform regulations. The company has taken additional preventive measures to address the issue and discourage copycat behavior. TikTok has removed the hashtag related to the challenge from its platform to prevent its further spread [5]. These actions are in line with the platform's commitment to combating dangerous behavior and protecting its users.

Furthermore, TikTok has been responsive to concerns raised by external parties, such as the FDA, which urged the platform to remove videos related to the Benadryl Challenge and remain vigilant in removing any additional videos that may be posted [2]. By working with external organizations and taking their recommendations into account, TikTok demonstrates a collaborative effort to address the issue effectively.

TikTok's interventions and preventive measures aim to protect its user community from the potential harm associated with the Benadryl Challenge. By implementing platform regulations, blocking relevant hashtags, and responding to external concerns, TikTok strives to create a safer environment for its users and prevent the spread of dangerous challenges.

To ensure the safety of individuals, it is important for both the platform and users to remain vigilant and report any content that promotes harmful challenges. By working together, we can foster a responsible and secure online community.

Educating on Medication Misuse

In light of recent incidents related to the "Benadryl Challenge," it is crucial to focus on educating individuals about the dangers of medication misuse. By promoting safe usage practices and raising awareness, we can help prevent such harmful challenges and protect the well-being of our communities.

Safe Usage Practices

To ensure the safe usage of medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Benadryl, it is essential to follow these guidelines:

  1. Read and Follow Instructions: Carefully read the packaging and instructions provided with the medication. Adhere to the recommended dosage and usage guidelines.
  2. Consult Healthcare Professionals: If you have any questions or concerns regarding the use of a medication, consult a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance based on your specific needs and medical history.
  3. Store Medications Safely: Keep medications, including Benadryl, out of the reach of children and pets. Store them in a secure location, preferably in a locked cabinet or container, to prevent accidental ingestion or misuse.
  4. Avoid Unnecessary Risks: Medications should only be used for their intended purposes. Avoid the temptation to participate in dangerous challenges or misuse medications for recreational purposes.
  5. Dispose of Medications Properly: When medications are no longer needed or have expired, dispose of them properly. Follow local guidelines or visit a drug take-back program to ensure safe and environmentally-friendly disposal.

By following these safe usage practices, we can minimize the risks associated with medication misuse and protect individuals from potential harm.

Importance of Awareness

Raising awareness about the dangers of medication misuse, especially among teenagers, is crucial in preventing incidents like the "Benadryl Challenge." Many teens may not be aware of the potential risks and consequences of misusing over-the-counter medications.

Parents, caregivers, and educators play a vital role in educating teenagers about the responsible use of medications. Open conversations about the dangers of medication misuse should be encouraged, emphasizing the importance of following instructions and seeking professional advice when needed.

Furthermore, healthcare professionals, schools, and community organizations should collaborate to provide educational resources and programs that address the risks associated with medication misuse. This can include workshops, informational materials, and online resources that highlight the potential dangers and promote safe usage practices.

By increasing awareness and fostering a culture of responsible medication use, we can help prevent incidents like the "Benadryl Challenge" and protect the well-being of individuals, particularly our youth.

It is imperative that we prioritize the safety and well-being of our communities by promoting safe usage practices and raising awareness about the risks associated with medication misuse. By doing so, we can work together to prevent harmful challenges and ensure the responsible use of medications. Remember, if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it's important to seek professional help and explore treatment options such as emergency outpatient treatment.


[1]: https://drugfree.org/article/what-is-the-benadryl-challenge/

[2]: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-warns-about-serious-problems-high-doses-allergy-medicine-diphenhydramine-benadryl

[3]: https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/18/us/benadryl-tiktok-challenge-teen-death-wellness/index.html

[4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benadryl_challenge

[5]: https://abc7.com/benadryl-challenge-deadly-tiktok-viral-ohio-teen-dies-overdosing-dangerous-social-media/13155800/

[6]: https://www.psychiatrist.com/news/viral-tiktok-benadryl-challenge-claims-life-of-13-year-old-boy/

[7]: https://www.clearstepsrecovery.com/addiction-recovery-blog/what-is-the-benadryl-challenge