'Medicine Challenges' on Social Media are Nothing Short of Dangerous

The Benadryl challenge on TikTok is seeing a resurgence, recently costing one teen his life. Here's what parents need to know.

Blurry image of shelves full with medicine, supplements and health foods
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Social media trends come and go. While some may just be plain silly—others are downright dangerous. Take the recent Benadryl challenge on TikTok. It involves kids taking a high dosage of Benadryl pills in order to trigger hallucinations. But the danger of taking too much of this kind of medication is very real.

A 13-year-old in Ohio recently overdosed on diphenhydramine (Benadryl), a medication typically used for to treat allergies. He was on a ventilator for about a week before he died, according to a local news report.

Sadly, this is not the first case of a teenager dying after attempting the Benadryl challenge, which first became a social media trend in 2020. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning after the death of a 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma, noting that taking too much Benadryl "can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death."

Not the First Dangerous Social Media Medicine Challenge

There are plenty of ways to cook chicken: With a marinade or lemon juice, on the grill, or in the oven. Cooking it with Nyquil does not qualify as one of them.

Why does this need to be said? Because last year there was a social media trend encouraging people to use Nyquil when preparing chicken. Like the milk crate and slap-a-teacher challenges that came before it, cooking chicken with Nyquil has harmful consequences. The FDA issued a warning on this challenge as well, urging people not to do it.

"Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways," the FDA wrote in a news release. "Even if you don't eat the chicken, inhaling the medication's vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs. Officials are concerned cooking chicken with Nyquil could land teens in the hospital, or even worse.

How to Prevent Your Teen From Dangerous Social Media Challenges

Though it seems obvious that participating in these social media trends are poor ideas, common sense can be a challenge for teenagers. The prefrontal cortex, or the area of the brain responsible for judgment, is not fully developed until about the mid-20s.

Tweens and teens often will take part in social media challenges to feel a sense of belonging. A 2022 study found that kids seeking attention, along with social pressure and entertainment value, were all reasons motivating them to take part in these types of challenges.

That's why it's important for adults to guide teens to make better decisions while protecting them. The FDA offers some advice:

  • Proactively discuss the dangers of misusing medication and following unsafe social media trends.
  • Keep over-the-counter and prescription medication out of reach of children. Consider locking them up as well.
  • Read the drug facts label of any medications you have in your home to understand what each drug does and who should not take it.
  • Speak to healthcare providers and pharmacists about medications.

If you believe your child has taken too much medication—whether from a social media challenge or otherwise—call for medical attention immediately. Some signs of overdose include hallucination, your child not breathing, or if they cannot be woken up. Dial 9-1-1 or contact poison control online or at 1-800-222-1222 to get the assistance your child needs.

Social Media Challenges For Good

It's important to note, not all social media challenges are dangerous. There have been ones in the past that have raised money for a certain cause. You may remember the ice bucket challenge in 2014. It raised money to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In fact, the money raised led to research and breakthroughs. In fact, in 2022, the FDA approved the use of a drug to treat those with ALS. The money raised from the ice bucket challenge went toward that research.

Other social media challenges are "just for fun" like silly dances, the mannequin challenge, or anything else the internet comes up with. What's important is to keep an open discussion with your child. Make sure they know which challenges are just for fun—and which could get them in trouble, are dangerous, or even deadly.

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Sources
Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA warns about serious problems with high doses of the allergy medicine diphenhydramine (Benadryl). September 2020.

  2. Abraham J, Roth R, Zinzow H, Madathil KC, Wisniewski P. Applying behavioral contagion theory to examining young adults’ participation in viral social media challenges. Trans Soc Comput. 2022

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