In July, a new challenge supposedly emerged on TikTok. The so-called ‘Benadryl challenge’ saw teens take excessive amounts of the over-the-counter allergy medicine in order to get high. Though there’s little evidence on the platform of a widespread trend, the challenge did lead to three hospitalisations and reportedly one death.
Now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning against the challenge. “We are aware of news reports of teenagers ending up in emergency rooms or dying after participating in the ‘Benadryl challenge’ encouraged in videos posted on the social media application TikTok,” the FDA said in a statement.
The agency cautioned that “taking higher than recommended doses of… Benadryl can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death”. The FDA is currently investigating the challenge and has reached out to TikTok to strongly urge them “to remove the videos from their platform and to be vigilant to remove additional videos that may be posted”.
Speaking to NBC News, the makers of Benadryl said: “This online ‘challenge’ is extremely concerning, dangerous, and should be stopped immediately. As soon as we became aware of this dangerous trend, we contacted social media platforms to have the content removed. We are continuing to monitor and work with safety teams at the various social media platforms to remove dangerous content.”
Three patients were admitted to hospital in May after taking a number of Benadryl tablets. Amber Jewison, a hospitalist nurse practitioner at Cook Children’s Medical Center – where the teens were treated – warned parents about the challenge. She said: “Too much diphenhydramine can cause a high heart rate and trigger arrhythmias. It can also cause hallucinations, seizures, and require a catheter to drain urine from the bladder due to not being able to urinate.”
One of the teens admitted was 14-year-old Rebekah, who took 14 Benadryl pills. “It was scary,” her mother said. “She had fractured sentences, hallucinations. Her resting heart rate was 199.”
In August, 15-year-old student Chloe Phillips died after reportedly overdosing on the allergy medicine. In a now-deleted Facebook post, her auntie said the challenge “needs to stop taking our kids or putting them in the hospital”.
TikTok has since disabled both the #Benadryl and #BenadrylChallenge hashtags in an attempt to curb the challenge.