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These dares encourage viewers to take a dangerously high dose of the medicine designed to stop allergies. The point is to hallucinate or trip out.
But the doses encouraged in these challenges are risky, because the amount necessary to hallucinate approaches a toxic and potentially fatal overdose. Such an amount can harm your liver and provoke heart rhythm abnormalities, unconsciousness, and sometimes death.
Earlier this summer, a children’s hospital in Texas reported treating three teens in one month for taking the challenge. They describe one patient, a 14-year-old girl who took 14 Benadryl pills late one night.
“It was scary. She had fractured sentences, hallucinations. Her resting heart rate was 199,” the girl’s mother said in a Cook Children’s press release.
But the FDA warns that children may have sudden excitement, followed by loss of coordination, drowsiness, unconsciousness, and seizures in the event of an overdose.
How Common Is Teen Benadryl Abuse?
It is hard to determine how commonly teens abuse Benadryl. Teen drug use is surveyed every year by the US government, which polled about 43,000 students of public high schools in 2019.
But this survey does not specifically ask students about Benadryl misuse.
The survey found nearly 15% of teens have misused a prescription drug by the time they reach 12th grade. But these are usually opioids, stimulants, and depressants. Benadryl is none of those, and it can be found at any drug store without a prescription.
How Does Benadryl Work?
Benadryl was approved in 1946 by the FDA, explains MedicineNet pharmacy author Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD. He said that histamines are set off by allergies and viral infections, causing sneezing, itching, and increased mucus production.
Antihistamines like Benadryl clog up your histamine receptors, stopping the real histamines from continuing the allergy cycle, Dr. Ogbru said. They also cause drowsiness, so in higher doses may be used to help you fall asleep on an occasional basis.
Other Risks Associated With Benadryl
Social media challenges notwithstanding, there are dangers associated with Benadryl, Dr. Ogbru says:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women have unknown risks from taking the drug, as it has not been adequately evaluated for them. These women should discuss Benadryl with their doctors.
- Side effects from normal use can include sedation, tiredness, and urinary retention.
- Side effects also may include blurred/double vision, painful urination or urination difficulty, sweating, shaking, loss of appetite, erectile dysfunction, and nausea.
Police in Ohio arrested a caretaker in the death of an infant who was allegedly given an adult dose of Benadryl in May.
Children under two should never be given Benadryl. Children 3 to 5 should only be given this medicine with your doctor’s recommendation.
Benadryl should be stored away safely and away from children, the FDA warns. In young children it may cause excitement rather than drowsiness, as they are more sensitive to antihistamines.