What Is The “Benadryl Challenge?”

Demystify the 'Benadryl Challenge' - Understand its origins, dangers, and the power of social media influence.

Understanding the "Benadryl Challenge"

The "Benadryl Challenge" is a recent phenomenon that has raised major health concerns. In exploring what the “benadryl challenge” is, it's important to understand its origins and the role social media has played in its propagation.

Origins of the Challenge

The "Benadryl Challenge" emerged on the social media platform, TikTok, in 2020. The challenge involves daring someone to ingest large amounts of the over-the-counter allergy medication, Benadryl, to experience hallucinations. The active ingredient in Benadryl, diphenhydramine (DHP), can act as a deliriant in high doses, leading to hallucinations.

In the case of the "Benadryl Challenge," participants are encouraged to take as many as 12 tablets at a time, far exceeding the maximum recommended dose. Such excessive consumption can lead to severe health risks such as nausea, seizures, and even death.

The Role of Social Media

Social media, particularly TikTok, has been instrumental in the spread of the "Benadryl Challenge." The allure of experiencing hallucinations, combined with social media pressure, has led many individuals, especially teenagers, to participate in the challenge, despite the risks of overdose and toxic effects associated with the drug diphenhydramine.

The challenge typically involves participants documenting their experiences with the drug and sharing the videos on TikTok. These videos often downplay the serious health risks associated with the challenge, leading to a dangerous misrepresentation of the potential consequences.

In response to the growing concerns, TikTok has taken steps to remove videos related to the "Benadryl Challenge" from its platform. However, the challenge's popularity highlights the crucial role of social media in shaping behaviors, particularly among young people, and the need for greater awareness and education about the dangers of such trends.

The Dangers of the Challenge

Understanding the risks associated with the "Benadryl Challenge" is crucial in creating awareness about its potential harm. This trend, unfortunately, encourages the ingestion of higher than recommended doses of diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, to achieve a "high." The consequences can be severe, even fatal, as seen in various reported cases.

The Impact on Health

The health risks associated with the "Benadryl Challenge" are numerous and concerning. Teens participating in this trend have experienced a range of symptoms, including unexplained drowsiness, disorientation, hallucinations, dry mouth, blurred vision, and urinary retention. The state of consciousness of those affected can vary from coma to delirium. Seizures and cardiac arrest are also possible, mirroring the effects of other anticholinergic drugs.

The symptoms from this challenge are similar to those of a Benadryl overdose, which include dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, hallucinations, seizures, and coma. The severity of these symptoms can escalate rapidly, leading to situations that require immediate medical attention.

Possible Consequences

The potential consequences of participating in the "Benadryl Challenge" extend beyond immediate health issues. Documented cases reveal teens presenting in emergency departments in the US and Canada in various states of intoxication after ingesting high doses of diphenhydramine.

More distressing are the fatalities connected to this challenge. Over 20 teenagers have required medical attention, and at least three have died as a result of participating in this dangerous trend since 2020. In one instance, a 15-year-old girl died after participating in the "Benadryl Challenge".

This reckless trend poses severe health risks, including serious heart problems, seizures, coma, and even death. As a result, the FDA has issued warnings about the dangers of taking too much Benadryl. The "Benadryl Challenge" underlines the importance of using medications responsibly, adhering to recommended doses, and understanding the potential dangers of misuse.

Cases and Incidents

As the "Benadryl Challenge" continues to circulate on social media, it has resulted in alarming instances of hospitalizations and even deaths. This dangerous trend involves adolescents consuming large amounts of diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, in an attempt to experience hallucinations. However, the consequences of such actions can be severe and life-threatening.

Notable Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations resulting from the "Benadryl Challenge" have been reported in both the United States and Canada. These incidents typically involve teenagers arriving at emergency departments in various states of intoxication. Symptoms exhibited by these patients have included unexplained drowsiness, disorientation, hallucinations, pupillary dilation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and urinary retention. In severe cases, patients have even experienced seizures or cardiac arrest.

In August 2020, multiple teenagers in Texas were hospitalized due to the "Benadryl Challenge," proving the harmful reach of this social media trend.

Deaths Linked to the Challenge

The "Benadryl Challenge" has resulted in tragic fatalities. Since 2020, at least three deaths have been directly linked to the challenge, with victims being teenagers who ingested high doses of Benadryl.

One notable incident involved a 15-year-old girl who died in August 2020 after participating in the challenge.

The severity of these incidents underscores the harmful effects of the "Benadryl Challenge" and the urgent need to raise awareness about the dangers of such online trends.

The Role of Diphenhydramine

At the heart of the "Benadryl Challenge" lies the misuse of a common medication ingredient, diphenhydramine. To fully understand the dangers associated with this challenge, it's crucial first to comprehend the intended use of this drug and the implications of its overdose.

Its Intended Use

Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, is an antihistamine commonly used in over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms of allergies, hay fever, and the common cold. These symptoms can include everything from runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing to itching and hives.

However, the "Benadryl challenge" involves taking dangerous amounts of diphenhydramine, far exceeding the maximum recommended dose. Participants are encouraged to take as many as 12 tablets at a time, leading to severe health risks.

Effects of Overdose

The excessive consumption of diphenhydramine can lead to severe health consequences, including cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, coma, and even death. This risk is exacerbated when the drug is ingested in large amounts to chase hallucinogenic effects, as seen in the Benadryl Challenge [6].

Specific symptoms of diphenhydramine intoxication from the Benadryl challenge include unexplained drowsiness, disorientation, hallucinations, pupillary dilatation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and urinary retention. Patients may range in consciousness from coma to delirium, and seizures and cardiac arrest are possible, similar to other anticholinergic drugs.

Symptoms of Diphenhydramine Overdose
Unexplained drowsiness
Pupillary dilatation
Dry mouth
Blurred vision
Urinary retention
Cardiac arrest

The significant increase in diphenhydramine-related deaths largely coincide with the spread of the “benadryl challenge” through social media platforms like TikTok.

The misuse of diphenhydramine in the Benadryl Challenge underscores the importance of using medications responsibly and only as directed. Over-the-counter does not mean harmless, and the potential consequences can be severe and life-threatening when used improperly.

The Response to the Challenge

The "Benadryl Challenge", as it has come to be known, has sparked significant concern among health professionals and regulatory authorities. Both have responded by issuing health warnings and taking action to mitigate the risks associated with this challenge.

Health Warnings Issued

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that taking too much Benadryl can lead to severe health problems, including serious heart problems, seizures, coma, and even death.

In response to reports of hospitalizations and even alleged deaths associated with the challenge, both Johnson & Johnson and the FDA issued warnings regarding the dangers of the Benadryl challenge and the risks of taking Benadryl at doses higher than recommended. This prompted collaboration from various organizations to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of such online challenges and the importance of medication safety [4].

The FDA further issued a formal statement on September 24, 2020, advising parents and medical practitioners to be aware of the prevalence of the Benadryl challenge and its associated risks due to potential adverse effects of confusion, delirium, psychosis, organ damage, hyperthermia, convulsions, coma, and death resulting from the overconsumption of diphenhydramine [3].

Actions by Social Media Platforms

In the wake of the challenge, social media platforms have also taken action to prevent the spread of harmful content related to the Benadryl challenge. TikTok, for example, has taken steps to remove and prohibit content related to the challenge to prevent further harm and protect users, denouncing the spread of such harmful trends on its platform.

However, despite these efforts, the challenge continues to persist in various forms. Since the inception of the challenge, hashtags related to it have been disabled, and while searching for "Benadryl" has been blocked, variations like "bena challenge" or "benary changle" may still yield results related to the original challenge, highlighting the ongoing challenge of preventing such harmful activities.

These actions, both by health authorities and social media platforms, underscore the seriousness of the situation and the potential dangers of the Benadryl challenge. It is crucial to remain vigilant and educate both individuals and communities about the risks associated with this trend.

Guiding Youth Away from Risks

Given the concerning implications of trends like the "Benadryl challenge," it's crucial to understand the role social media plays in spreading these dangerous activities and how safe online behavior can be promoted among young individuals.

The Influence of Social Media

The allure of the "Benadryl challenge" lies in the appeal of sharing experiences on social media, which can inadvertently encourage more young individuals to participate in dangerous activities without fully understanding the risks involved. The tragic death of a 13-year-old boy due to the "Benadryl challenge" underscores the urgency of addressing the influence of social media on impressionable individuals.

While social media platforms can be a source of entertainment and connection, they can also unwittingly spread harmful trends. It's important to acknowledge the power of these platforms in shaping behavior, particularly among younger users who may be more susceptible to peer influence. As a result, there is an urgent need for greater awareness campaigns to discourage participation in viral trends that endanger lives.

Promoting Safe Online Behavior

Promoting safe online behavior is a shared responsibility. Healthcare providers, educators, parents, and the social media platforms themselves all have a role to play. The dangerous nature of the "Benadryl challenge" has prompted healthcare providers to issue warnings about the potential risks associated with taking large doses of over-the-counter medications for recreational purposes.

Similarly, social media platforms like TikTok took steps to remove and prohibit content related to the Benadryl Challenge to prevent further harm and protect users, denouncing the spread of such harmful trends on its platform [6].

Educating young people about the dangers of such challenges is crucial to preventing further tragedies. This goes beyond simply informing them about the risks involved. It also includes teaching them how to critically evaluate the information they encounter online, understand the potential consequences of their actions, and make responsible decisions.

Health authorities and medical professionals have issued warnings against participating in dangerous challenges like the Benadryl Challenge, emphasizing the serious risks involved in misusing medications and the importance of promoting safe and responsible behavior online.

In conclusion, as social media continues to play a significant role in young people's lives, it's essential to instill a sense of digital literacy and responsibility in them. This can help ensure their safety and well-being, both online and offline.


[1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2773021222000797

[2]: https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/25/health/fda-issues-benadryl-warning-tiktok-challenge-wellness/index.html

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

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

[5]: https://bcmj.org/blog/tiktok-benadryl-challenge-alert-physicians

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

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