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Health experts warn about 'Benadryl challenge' on TikTok after teen's death

'You’re, basically, playing Russian Roulette.'

ATLANTA — Teens and young adults in Georgia and nationwide are overdosing on Benadryl, trying to get high by taking the so-called “Benadryl Challenge” on TikTok.

One young person rushed to the ER in metro Atlanta survived. But a 15-year-old in Oklahoma died. Reports on the challenge are coming in from across the country, alarming doctors and parents.

Dr. Gaylord Lopez, Director of the Georgia Poison Center, said it's "alarming," because those who participate are gambling with their lives. 

“People want to take enough medicine to get them to the point of hallucinating," he said. "This is where you’re, basically, playing Russian Roulette with dosing... You, potentially, can die.”

Experts say boredom, peer pressure or foolish adventure contribute to the teens and young adults trying to copy TikTok videos that show people taking multiple, over-the-counter Benadryl capsules to see how many they can take to get high without getting sick. But Lopez said the medicine works so fast, there is no home first aid for an overdose, and it can be fatal.

The effects of a Benadryl overdose are varied, including sudden drowsiness, seizure, irregular heartbeat, coma, cessation of breathing and death.

"Unfortunately, this is a drug that gets into the system fairly quickly," Lopez said, "and there's nothing, really, you could do at home, because if they start having irregular heartbeats, or they start having seizure activity, there's not much you can do" except wait for first responders to arrive.

Lopez said in the case here in Metro Atlanta, "someone took upwards of more than two dozen Benadryl capsules to try to get high.”

That person made it to the E.R. but nearly died.

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In Texas, nurse practitioner Amber Jewison treated three teens who OD’d after they'd watched TikTok videos about the Benadryl challenge and tried to copy them.

“They wanted to get high and see how it felt, because of these videos," she said.

It’s not the medicine itself that harms them. “The dose makes the poison," Lopez said.

Doctors say parents who see their child switch off suddenly, quickly becoming lethargic, drowsy, or incoherent, with some loss of motor skills, should beware - it might be from an overdose from a TikTok Benadryl Challenge, a game of Russian Roulette reaching homes everywhere.

The Georgia Poison Center hotline is 1-800-222-1222.