The “Benadryl Challenge” on TikTok is making the rounds again—and it’s a deadly trend.
The social media challenge first surfaced three years ago: take a large amount of diphenhydramine (more commonly known as Benadryl) in an attempt to have hallucinations. Teenagers latched on to the stunt and started filming each other and posting videos of the results on TikTok. The challenge resulted in dangerous cases of diphenhydramine poisoning and caused the death of a 15-year-old girl in 2020.
This week, the challenge has claimed another life.
Thirteen-year-old Jacob Stevens died after his family says he tried the Benadryl challenge with a group of his friends. Jacob spent a week on a ventilator in an Ohio hospital but did not survive.
Jacob’s father Justin told local TV station WSYX he has a warning for parents after losing his son: know what they’re doing online. “Keep an eye at what they’re doing on that phone. Talk to them about the situation I want everyone to know about my son.”
The company that manufactures Benadryl posted a warning about the challenge on its website:
We understand that consumers may have heard about an online “challenge” involving the misuse or abuse of diphenhydramine. The challenge, which involves ingestion of excessive quantities of diphenhydramine, is a dangerous trend and should be stopped immediately. BENADRYL® products and other diphenhydramine products should only be used as directed by the label.
Collaboration and education are critical to putting an end to this dangerous misuse. We are working with TikTok and other social platforms to remove content that showcases this behavior. We will look to partner across industry and with key stakeholders to address this dangerous behavior.
If you believe that you or someone you know has taken BENADRYL® or other diphenhydramine products in a manner not directed by the label, please contact your local poison control center.
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine commonly used to treat mild upper respiratory symptoms like a runny nose or sneezing that are often a result of allergies. Taking too much of the drug can cause severe side effects like heart problems, seizures, coma, and even death.