Abuse of Benadryl: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Thoughtful handsome man in a parkThe brand name medicine Benadryl is an over-the-counter substance used for the treatment of allergies, cold symptoms, hay fever and insomnia.

Also known as Diphenhydramine, this antihistamine can be used topically for the treatment of itching, minor cuts, burns, etc., and taken orally for managing any of the above-mentioned conditions. Benadryl can be purchased from most pharmacies, grocery and drug stores and is mostly sold in a tablet form.

When it comes to addiction and/or misuse of drugs, many people may assume that this typically involves illicit and prescription drugs. However, over the counter substances, like Benadryl, are commonly misused, often because these substances are more easily obtained that street drugs or prescription medications.

Misuse of Benadryl

Antihistamine abuse is a common trend increasing among adolescents and teenagers, as these substances are products that are found in the typical household medicine cabinet, reasonably cheap to buy and relatively easy to purchase. The antihistamine Diphenhydramine, which is the main ingredient in Benadryl, can be taken to combat insomnia and is sometimes used as a sedative due to the drowsiness effect. When combined with other prescription drugs, the sedating effects of Benadryl can be increased. This is also true if Benadryl is combined with alcohol.

Potential side effects of Benadryl misuse can include respiratory distress, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications, liver dysfunction, confusion and altered mental status, and in some cases, seizures.

Identifying and Recognizing Benadryl Misuse

Woman looking very drowsyIf you are concerned that your loved one may be misusing Benadryl, be aware of potential signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem is at hand.

Because of the adverse effects that are potentially associated with this substance, keep this over the counter substance away from the reach of children and out of access from other individuals in the household.

Combining this substance with other prescriptions or alcohol, using a dosage higher than what is recommended, or taking the drug for purposes outside of therapeutic uses can all be indicative of a more serious addiction problem.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What do you think are some misconceptions when it comes to over the counter substances, like Benadryl?


Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 4, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com