To many people, using an over-the-counter medication in higher-than-recommended doses may seem relatively harmless. In many cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Benadryl, an antihistamine typically used to relieve allergy symptoms, is a commonly abused medication that can be purchased at any drug and grocery stores without a prescription. Due to the easy access, researchers say that abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medications is particularly common among teens between the ages of 13 and 16. People of all ages, however, can fall prey to Benadryl dependence.
Benadryl Side Effects
Benadryl’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine, which impacts the central nervous system in ways that vary among users. For this reason, the possible side effects of using too much Benadryl range from minor to significant, including:
- Blurred vision
- Decreased coordination
- Dry nose, throat, and mouth
- Disorientation, both mental and spatial
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, urinary retention
- Loss of appetite
- Temporary erectile dysfunction
- Distortions of sight and sound
- Muscle relaxation
- Nervousness and insomnia
- Seizures among people with seizure disorders
- Cardiovascular episodes, including arrhythmias, palpitations, losing consciousness, low blood pressure and even cardiac arrest
Even more dangerous is abusing Benadryl along with other drugs and/or alcohol, often called a Benadryl Cocktail. Mixing sedatives, tranquilizers or alcohol with larger-than-prescribed doses of Benadryl can amplify the depressant affects like drowsiness.
Benadryl Overdose Facts
Overdosing on Benadryl alone is possible, with symptoms including:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Dilated pupils
- Flushed, dry skin
Usually overdose symptoms appear within the first two hours of taking it. The toxic effects can include heart attack, kidney failure, pancreatitis, coma and even death.
The dangers of Benadryl should be even more telling because of its use in drugging and sexually assaulting women. Bill Cosby, who is accused of drugging and raping dozens of women, admitted in 2005 that he used Benadryl to sedate his victims. Because of the drug’s prevalence in this type of use, hospital rape kits can now detect the active ingredient in Benadryl.
Anyone abusing Benadryl by taking more than the recommended dosage for the sedating or euphoric effects can become psychologically dependent, meaning he or she becomes fixated on taking it and craves the drug even while knowing it is harmful and experiencing negative consequences from taking it.
Benadryl abusers also can become physically dependent, developing a tolerance for higher and higher doses to get the same effects. Withdrawal symptoms can include insomnia, irritability, restlessness, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and sweating.
People abusing Benadryl should seek medical care immediately. If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.