Parents urged to have open dialogue after TikTok ‘Benadryl challenge’ turns deadly

There’s a new warning for families about dangerous TikTok challenges after a teenager in Ohio died after doing the so-called “Benadryl challenge,” in which people overdose on the allergy medication in an effort to experience hallucinations, similar to the effects of taking psychedelics.

Jacob Stevens, 13, died this month after taking more than a dozen Benadryl pills, family members told a television station in Columbus, Ohio.

His father said Stevens was at home, and that his friends were filming him when he overdosed on the medication and started seizing. The teen died after spending six days on a ventilator.

“A teen, being impulsive, may do very extreme behaviors.” said Dr. Gregory Jantz, a psychologist and teen mental health expert. “Teenagers love a dare, and parents are kind of disconnected from what’s really going on out there.”

The situation prompted Benadryl to post a warning on its website, telling people to contact their local poison control center if anyone has abused the medicine.

“Collaboration and education are critical to putting an end to this dangerous misuse,” the company said. “We are working with TikTok and other social platforms to remove content that showcases this behavior.”

The Benadryl challenge first started circulating on the social media platform in 2020. That year, a 15-year-old girl from Oklahoma died after attempted the challenge.

While it is obviously dangerous and potentially deadly, it is far from the only harmful challenge that’s floating around on social media.

According to Jantz, families need to be aware of that and take it seriously.

Jantz recommended that parents consistently set time aside to ask their kids about popular online challenges, discuss it and keep that dialogue open and ongoing.

“Don’t make it something that is hard to talk about,” Jantz said. “We have to be willing to talk about it because it’s about helping our kids understand how dangerous these things can be.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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