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Benadryl challenge on TikTok: Why the FDA is warning of ‘serious problems’

TikTok teens are overdosing on Benadryl to induce hallucinations. But this latest social media challenge can kill them.

Benadryl challenge on TikTok: Why the FDA is warning of ‘serious problems’
[Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Sometimes viral social media challenges are fun and even promote good in the world (think the Ice Bucket Challenge), but sometimes such challenges can be deadly. That’s the warning the Food and Drug Administration has put out on the latest challenge, known as the “Benadryl Challenge,” which has reportedly been a trend among teenagers on TikTok.

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As the name suggests, the Benadryl Challenge involves the use of the medicine Benadryl, a common over-the-counter allergy medicine that is generically also known as diphenhydramine. However, far from fighting allergies, the Benadryl Challenge’s aim is to overdose on the drug to induce hallucinations.

As Healthline reports, a 15-year-old died in August after taking part in the Benadryl Challenge on TikTok. And earlier in the year, in May, three teenagers were treated at Cook Children’s Hospital in Texas after overdosing on Benadryl after seeing videos of the Benadryl Challenge on TikTok. As a mother of one of the teenagers said in a press release about the incident, “It was scary. She had fractured sentences, hallucinations. Her resting heart rate was 199.” Luckily, that teen survived.

In the FDA’s warning, the organization notes that taking higher than the recommended dosage of Benadryl “can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death.” The FDA is advising parents to lock up medicines, including Benadryl, and warns that teenagers may be more likely to experiment with over-the-counter drugs now because they are cooped up and bored at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The FDA says it also contacted TikTok to urge the company to remove Benadryl Challenge videos from its platform.

When reached for comment, TikTok told Fast Company, “The safety and well-being of our users is TikTok’s top priority. As we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous challenges that might lead to injury. Though we have not seen this content trend on our platform, we actively remove content that violates our guidelines and block related hashtags to further discourage participation. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off.”

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