Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Benadryl, is warning parents about the dangers of overdosing on Benadryl after an Oklahoma City teenager reportedly died. The 15-year-old's death cames as the "Benadryl Challenge" has become popular on the social media video platform TikTok. The challenge was also blamed after three Fort Worth, Texas teens were hospitalized in May.
Benadryl is a common over-the-counter antihistamine meant to help relieve allergy symptoms. The challenge involves taking enough Benadryl pills to hallucinate. Johnson & Johnson called the TikTok challenge "extremely concerning" and "dangerous" in a statement to TooFab earlier this week. The company said the challenge "should be stopped immediately," adding, "As with any medicine, abuse or misuse can lead to serious side effects with potentially long-lasting consequences, and BENADRYL products should only be used as directed by the label." The company noted that all medications should be "kept out of the reach of children at all times" and they are working with TikTok to "do what we can to stop this dangerous trend, including the removal of content across social platforms that showcase this behavior."
What happens after “Benadryl challenge” dose?
- excessive sleepiness, maybe even coma
- confusion, agitation
- blurred vision
- dry eyes and mouth
- inability to sweat or pass urine
- elevated body temperature
Basically the shittiest buzz imaginable. /3— David Juurlink (@DavidJuurlink) September 2, 2020
Late last month, KFOR reported that a 15-year-old girl reportedly died from a Benadryl overdose. "The dose that can cause a hallucination is very close to the dose that can cause something potentially life-threatening," Scott Schaeffer, director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information, told the outlet. Schaeffer said, "large doses" of the medication can cause seizures and heart problems. "The heart tends to go out of rhythm and not pump blood effectively," he said.
TikTok's community guidelines said the platform does not allow content promoting dangerous challenges that could lead to injury. They removed a "very small amount" of content promoting the challenge when they first learned about it in May, a company spokesperson told Forbes. "We've been keeping an eye on this topic since and removing any new content – which again has been in extremely small numbers – to prevent any spread on our platform," the spokesperson said.
Some experts are worried that people might perceive Benadryl as less harmful because it is an over-the-counter medication. David Juurlink, MD, of the University of Toronto, warned that people could "get very sick" if they take 10, 20, or 30 pills. "Do not underestimate how dangerous Benadryl is just because its available without a prescription, it doesn't mean it can't kill you if you take enough of it," Juurlink told Forbes. "It's a very fine line between being a bit sleepy and having significant problems like heart problems and seizures, which can be fatal."