The fad sees participants taking more than the directed dose of the brand name allergy medication in an effort to hallucinate, a stunt that previously sent three Texas teens to the hospital in May. Now, the craze is allegedly responsible for at least one fatality.
TikTok's "Benadryl Challenge" blamed in death of girl.
It’s unclear how many pills of the antihistamine, which are over-the-counter, the deceased teenager took to cause a fatal overdose, but reports state that TikTok users have been known to swallow a dozen or more when attempting to trip out on the medication.
"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, explained to Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV.
"Large doses of Benadryl can cause seizures and, particularly, problems with the heart," he continued. "The heart tends to go out of rhythm and not pump blood effectively."
David Juurlink, MD, head of the division of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto, said that individuals suffering from Benadryl overdoses can suffer a range of symptoms, including "sleepiness or coma, confusion, agitation, blurred vision, dry eyes and mouth, constipation, and the inability to sweat and pass urine."
He told Forbes, "Some people are in a coma and are difficult or impossible to wake up. The other type of patient is delirious, they might be picking at their clothes or the sheets on the hospital bed, not making any sense, they are likely to be mumbling incoherently, be agitated, and have impaired vision."
Juurlink urged the public not to underestimate the dangers of Benadryl just because it can be acquired without a prescription. "It doesn't mean it can’t kill you if you take enough of it," he shared. "It’s a very fine line between being a bit sleepy and having significant problems like heart problems and seizures, which can be fatal."
TikTok and the makers of Benadryl condemned the challenge.
In a statement to Forbes, the video-sharing app claimed it first learned of the alarming trend in May and "quickly removed the very small amount of content" that referred to it.
"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," a spokesperson noted.
Johnson & Johnson, the company that sells Benadryl, implored TikTok users to stop experimenting with the medication, which is also known as diphenhydramine. "As with any medicine, abuse or misuse can lead to serious side effects with potentially long-lasting consequences," the multinational corporation told TooFab.
"Benadryl products should only be used as directed by the label," the healthcare company asserted. "We are working with TikTok and our partners to do what we can to stop this dangerous trend, including the removal of content across social platforms that showcase this behavior."