The tragic death of 13-year-old Jacob Stevens from Ohio has sparked warnings from parents and public health institutions about the highly dangerous challenges that some children are undertaking through social media.
Jacob’s parents described him as an outgoing young man who enjoyed listening to music, playing soccer, and hanging out with his friends. He was hospitalized for six days after taking part in the “Benadryl Challenge” on TikTok.
The Benadryl Challenge involves ingesting large amounts of the antihistamine drug diphenhydramine, which is used to treat allergies, hives and other reactions. As an anticholinergic medication, it can also be used as a synthetic alternative to treat insomnia and Parkinson’s disease. But when taken in large doses, it can cause hallucinations.
The challenge involves taking multiple doses of the drug in an attempt to fight its calming effects, with the winner being the last one to fall asleep. It is reported that some participants have taken as many as 12-14 pills at once, when the recommended dose for severe allergies is only one 25mg pill every 6 hours.
Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the anti-allergy medication, have warned the public, particularly the parents of adolescents, to be aware of this content on social networks. Despite this, the challenge still exists three years later. TikTok has expressed their sympathies to Jacob Steven’s family and has announced the launch of a team of 40,000 security professionals to eliminate violations of the platform’s Community Guidelines.
Jacob’s death has highlighted the risks of these social media challenges which can be hugely dangerous, especially when participants do not understand the full implications of their actions. Parents and health institutions are now warning of the dangers of participating in these challenges and are encouraging young people to make informed decisions when it comes to their health.