Moral Panic

Be Skeptical of Stories About TikTok 'Benadryl Challenge' Overdoses

One very sketchy story about an Oklahoma City teen’s tragic death has gone viral.

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A teen in Oklahoma City reportedly died in August of an overdose of Benadryl pills, and this tragedy is fueling yet another social media "challenge" panic. Are teens really trying to convince other teens to take tons of allergy pills to get high?

As with all of these social media panics that start bouncing around the web and local news networks, this story has kernels of truth to it while suggesting a trend that is probably exaggerated. Remember the "Tide Pod challenge"? Some teens did genuinely post videos of themselves eating Tide Pods, and there was a temporary increase in calls to poison control for laundry detergent ingestion. But the kind of national panic that led to involvement by fearmongering lawmakers was just completely over the top relative to the actual risks.

Similarly, the "Benadryl challenge" starts with something real. Three teens in Texas in May sought medical treatment after overdosing on Benadryl. The hospital, Cook Children's Hospital at Fort Worth, posted on its blog that the teens got the idea from a TikTok video that told them they could get high and hallucinate if they took several Benadryl pills. One girl took 14 of them and needed medical treatment.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and McClatchy News reached out to TikTok and were told that, yes, the company had removed content from the platform that was violating their community guidelines by encouraging people to take excessive amounts of Benadryl. So TikTok acknowledged the videos existed and has removed them.

Fast forward to the end of August. On August 28, Oklahoma City news outlet KFOR reported that a 15-year-old girl actually died from overdosing on Benadryl, ostensibly because she "fell victim to what's been called the Benadryl Challenge on Tik Tok," according to KFOR's report. The story has bounced around several media sites now, including Newsweek and the Daily Mail.

The attribution for the cause of death comes from a Facebook post that has been subsequently deleted. The U.S. Sun and the New York Post identify the girl as Chloe Phillips, a sophomore at Blanchard High School, who died on August 21. The Facebook post apparently comes from her Great-Aunt Janette Sissy Leasure, who blamed the "Benadryl challenge."

"This needs to stop taking our kids or putting them in the hospital," she wrote.

KFOR's reporting, however, leaves out any attribution and does not provide any actual comments from her family about the girl's death. KFOR interviewed Scott Schaeffer, director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information, who explained to reporter Cassandra Sweetman how consuming large amounts of Benadryl can cause heart problems and seizures along with those hallucinations.

One might read Sweetman's story and assume, then, that Schaeffer knew about what happened with Phillips and was doing his job informing the public. That assumption, however, would be incorrect. Schaeffer subsequently told Reason that he actually had no direct knowledge about the incident KFOR reported.

Furthermore, in an email, Schaeffer said, "[U]pon review of our records, [we] have found no cases that appear to have been inspired by the 'Benadryl Challenge.'"

Sweetman has not responded to an email from Reason seeking attribution for the girl's death and the circumstances behind it.

That there's very little evidential attribution that a teen girl in Oklahoma actually died as a result of a TikTok video hasn't stopped the story from going viral. And each story's sole example of this "trend" points to the same overdoses of the teens in Fort Worth and videos that TikTok has already removed. (A company representative told Forbes they're keeping an eye out for any new videos that might get posted.)

This is not a "trend." It is, however, an easy way for media outlets to sow another round of panic and paranoia over social media and to convince stressed out parents that new technologies pose a danger to their kids.

While it's true that there have been a small number of videos on TikTok encouraging Benadryl abuse, and that three teens in Texas decided to try it, there is very little evidence that a "Benadryl challenge" is something young people are doing (note the lack of actual links to TikTok videos in all this coverage), and so far, it's unclear whether a teen in Oklahoma City actually died as a result of it.

What is true is that many, many media outlets have decided to use a deleted Facebook post as factual evidence of a widespread pandemic of teens deliberately attempting to overdose on allergy medication.

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  1. We’ve solved all the big problems so kids have nothing left to do other than create silly ‘challenges’ for each other. I can’t really blame them.

    Kids need to demand immunity, but they can’t because they’ll be bullied relentlessly and accused of ‘killing grandma’ along with other insults and imprecations. But these restrictions and trillions in debt are a far greater threat to their health and safety than covid, gun rights and climate change combined. They should be out in the streets protesting. Kids today…..

    1. It’s funny that shakford is defending this communist run app. Apparently he can brush off deaths from time pod poisoning, he can brush of the houses kids burnt down doing the phone charger challenge (a recent tik tok challenge that told kids to plug in their charger, but leave a 1/8″ between it and the wall. Then slide a penny down between the charger and wall, connecting the + and – terminals creating a giant spark and sometimes fire which burnt a few houses down), but god forbid someone try shutting this commie piece of shit down over Benadryl chugging. Also, why can’t reason writers apply the same “Benadryl poisoning could be bad, but it’s really only bad for .005 of people on tik tok” logic to covid as they do this?

  2. “Hey kids, you can get really high if you take a long zip tie, loop it around your neck, and pull it tight! Make sure to tamponade both carotids!”

    1. “Try the strychnine challenge!”

    2. I think most children prefer vodka tampons or the cinnamon challenge over auto-erotic asphyxiation.

      1. ALWAYS HAVE A SPOTTER!! If I was a billionaire that would be the public service announcement I would fund.

        1. Should say “were” instead of “was”

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  3. They teach ongoing natural selection in schools, so why the outrage when there’s a real life example? I say, teachable moment!

    1. “Think of it as Evolution in Action.”

      1. The diving board on the edge of the building was the second best part of that book.

        We’ve already lost Jerry; whatever Larry has in mind, he needs to come out with it, quick. Jerry would’ve been fascinated by how this year has gone.

        1. Jerry would’ve been fascinated by how this year has gone.

          I keep having echoes of that thought. “Man, I wish $friend was here to see this shit.” But yeah, Jerry in particular would be having a field day with this year.

  4. The fact that this is coming up around Halloween would suggest this is at least a bit more plausible. Benadryl is known to cause very bizarre and terrifying hallucinations.

    Besides, unlike Tide Pods, this has been “a thing” with some kids for over 20 years.

    1. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Robitussin, or more specifically, dextromethorphan, not diphenhydramine?

      1. I’ve heard of caffeine overdoses (pills) and I want to say a Benadryl overdose as a half-assed cry for help. This would have been nearly 30 years ago. I know the caffeine overdose, one of which was fatal, was an unpleasant way to go. The Benadryl was dealt with by a run to the ER and lavage with an activated charcoal solution. No lasting effects, AFAIK. Though some have been less fortunate: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7073039/

        The phrase within that cite, “development of anticholinergic symptoms” is one clue you’re in for a bad time. Further, “The patient initially developed seizures following by cardiac conduction and hemodynamic compromise resulting in death despite life support measures,” isn’t great either. Then again, the patient took 7.5 grams of the drug.

        1. The phrase within that cite, “development of anticholinergic symptoms” is one clue you’re in for a bad time.

          Ah yes, good old SLUDGE.

          7.5 grams of anything is hard when you’re talking doses in the 100mg range generally, yeah. That’s a lot of fuckin’ little pink pills.

      2. No. They are very different, but they both cause hallucinations.

        1. Yeah, I actually looked it up afterwards. I had no idea Benadryl would do that. I knew about DXM. “Robofrying”.

          1. People used to call it ‘robo-trippin’. Similar category of desperation as benadryl except for DXM being a dissociative anesthetic will have real sensory effects, the same class as ketamine iirc.
            I’d be surprised if benadryl could induce hallucinations. I guess there’s potential for mild visual distortion at super high doses, the same as getting visual distortion after you stay up for 3 days straight, but actual hallucination would require something trippier, unless you have a weak ass unstable mind.

            1. If it causes sludging with overdose it might be an alkaloid of some sort, but, yeah, presumably very mild.

            2. I have a friend who ate a tablespoon of nutmeg in high school because he heard it’s a hallucinogen. He never did hallucinate, but he did taste nothing but nutmeg for a couple of weeks.

              1. “I have a friend”

                lol

              2. Lmao that’s real. But you need pure real nutmeg, which isn’t usually what’s in a shaker from the grocery store. And the dose to trip is something insane like a gram of nutmeg for every 10 kilos of body weight. Never tried, but if i could’ve found a bunch of pure nutmeg in college i might have lmao

  5. Never, ever, believe anything on social media.
    In fact, cancel all your accounts and spend the time reading classics downloaded from the Gutenberg project.

    1. ^ no doubt.

      Also I’d never heard of Project Gutenberg, this is awesome thanks for mentioning it.

      1. Hunh, I figured Gutenberg was universally known. I suppose not, of course.

        1. No it probably is, there’s a lot of ubiquitous shit I’m not hip to.

  6. If I was 15 years old and taking benadryl to get high, I’d prolly just die from the embarrassment.

  7. When I was in HS ‘bennies’ was short for benzodiazepines, and today it’s short for benadryl.
    And ‘zoomin’ meant flyin on adderall, now it apparently means sitting around jackin off in front of your webcam.
    Sad.

      1. When you try to get to sleep tonight, think about the fact that these kids are the source of you social security payments – – – – – – – –

        1. You can’t scare me with that. I’ve already accepted that there won’t be any social security payments by the time I’m supposedly “ready to retire”. Or there will be, but it’ll be $1000 a month, when a Big Mac is $1000.

          1. Big Macs will be priceless, because beef will have been outlawed as part of the green new enslavement. The $1,000.00 might buy you a gallon of gasoline for the allowed once a year parade of automobiles to let the masses to see the evils of the old days.

            1. Well, but you see my point. 😉

  8. “Be Skeptical of Stories About Pop Rock Challenge Deaths.”

    “Be Skeptical of Stories About Glue Sniffing Deaths.”

    There’s always some adult panic about the crazy things their kids might be doing. Just be skeptical in general about shit you hear.

    1. The panic is bullshit, just like every other panic since Tipper Gore started panicking. But this does sound like something my dumbass teenage nieces and nephews would do. More so because they saw it on the interwebs and the facechat.

      1. Isn’t it interesting that this entire story about kids doing dumb stuff, and posting it on the interweb, never mentions the Google-owned YouTube, where most “viral” shit happens?
        You don’t ever want to piss off Google.

    2. According to the great philosopher dee dee Ramone “now I wanna snif some glue, now I wanna have something to do, all the kids wanna snif some glue”

      1. Pretty much every universal truth can be gleaned by listening to the recordings of the Ramones but sometimes you have to play the record backwards.

  9. My mother’s neighbor knows this guy who said his girlfriend’s dad told him about this thing he’d heard from a co-worker’s wife that the kids were now all into chugging a liter of Pepsi and then downing a pack of Mentos. They’re calling it the Pepsi Challenge.

    1. You need to swallow the Mentos whole, though.

      Shall we let this generation know about the Syrup of Ipecac Challenge?

      1. Technicolor yawn.

        1. Technicolor geyser yawn…

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    Guess I was wrong.

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  14. When I was a kid we didn’t need to take Benadryl to hallucinate, we had good quality LSD, mescaline, MDA and magic mushrooms.

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  17. Look, I have it on good authority that playing Judas Priest records backward reveals that their albums are simply subliminal instructions to commit suicide. Who knows how many died because of that.

    And that was backwards “do it”. And it was really, really hard to understand, even after they told you what it was supposed to be. And just hearing it could cause you to blow your brains out.

    So don’t tell me a tik-Tok video can’t get people to eat benadryl and Tide Pod coctails. That stuff is probably so good that just reading about it here is causing a wave of death.

  18. Ok, if you skipped the article and went to the comments first, go back and read it.

    So, we all read the article, right?

    Did you catch the part where they talk about a bunch of reporters writing stories about how this is “trending” and it is a “growing problem”… but they all point back to the same single incident?

    Ok, now apply what you just learned to the coverage of the election. Particularly of note, the latest kerfuffle about speaking ill of dead servicemen.

    I noticed that the very next morning, less than 12 hours after the story dropped, the Biden campaign had advertisements up pushing the story, featuring interviews with parents of dead soldiers talking about how offended they were.

    To go along with that, there were news stories on every outlet. The national networks all provided standup packages to local outlets so they could pretend to cover it themselves.

    They all used this same language. “Growing outrage among the military”. Really? They went and polled a bunch of people in less than a day? And growing? compared to what?

    They use the same language and the same tactics.

    They had The Atlantic report a story, then they held a press conference and had the reporter from The Atlantic ask the first question: and he asks what Biden thinks it says about Trump’s soul that he would say such a thing.

    And then the news outlets all reported that since reporters were asking about it, that it was a growing concern for the American people, and it was not going away. All within 36 hours of the story coming out. All packaged by a handful of operatives working at the Biden headquarters… pushed out to every local channel to act as if it were a locally reported story.

    Our news today is this, times 365 days a year.

    This is just the story we see because it is stupid. Tide pods were easy. Rainbow lipstick parties.

    But you can apply the knowledge you just gained to everything else. They run the same game on the stories you trust too.

    1. This cannot be said enough. Reason used to be way better at putting these types of stories I to perspective

  19. Holy crap, did you read the criminal complaint against Reinoehl?

    https://www.mcda.us/index.php/documents/state-of-oregon-vs-michael-forest-reinoehl-affidavits-warrant-da-info.pdf/

    Murder 2 is the best they can do for a crowd that hunts down a guy because of the hat he is wearing and shoots him dead?

    I get that it is different jurisdictions, but we have murder 1 for a few high profile cases right now that are on video.. video that seems to show either clear or at least arguable cases for self defense. I’ll also note that those other cases were filed within 24 hours of the events. Some quite a bit less. This one is simply a criminal complaint seeking an arrest warrant, not actual charges. So I guess they might have upped the charges when the DA got the case ready to file. But it still took from the 29th to the 3rd to even come up with a warrant application.

    1. Maybe they wanted to make sure they actually got him on something.

  20. Feel free to delete this, Reason, but you can get high by mainlining Benadryl.

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