Family shares warning after 13-year-old son dies after doing Benadryl Challenge seen on TikTok

KTRK logo
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
TikTok Benadryl challenge: Ohio family shares warning after 13-year-old dies following social media stunt
The family of 13-year-old Jacob Stevens is sharing a warning after he died following the viral Benadryl Challenge first seen in 2020 on TikTok.

An Ohio family is sharing a new warning about the viral Benadryl challenge on TikTok after their 13-year-old son died from an overdose trying to do it, the family said.

The dangerous stunt calls for people to take 12 to 14 pills of the over-the-counter drug in hopes of hallucinating.

But in Jacob Stevens case, he lost his life.

The teen tried it while filming, and instead of hallucinating, his body started seizing.

"They kinda just all come at one time, and it was too much for his body," said Justin Stevens, the boy's father.

The Stevens family shared the photo of Jacob in the hospital, so others can see first-hand what the challenge did to him.

Jacob was on a ventilator for six days before doctors determined he would never wake up.

"No brain scan. There was nothing there. He said we could keep him on the vent. He could lay there like that. But he will never open his eyes. He will never breathe on his own. Never do anything like that, smile. He will never walk or talk," said Dianna Stevens, Jacob's grandmother.

The challenge itself is not new.

It first surfaced in 2020, prompting the FDA to put out a warning to parents about the devastating effects that abusing the medicine can have including serious heart problems, seizures, coma and death.

The challenge at the time was linked to a 15-year-old girl's death in Oklahoma and also sent teenagers who were reportedly doing it to the emergency room.

According to the dosing guide, Benadryl users aren't supposed to take it more than six times in 24 hours. The dosage also varies by age.

The medicine is commonly used to treat allergy and cold symptoms.

The FDA has encouraged parents to lock up the drug to prevent an accidental overdose, but said the most effective thing parents can do is sit down with their children and talk to them about the dangers of misusing drugs.

The Stevens say they plan to push lawmakers to impose age restrictions on medications like Benadryl.

In 2020, TikTok blocked the challenge's hashtag on the app. That ban still appears to be in place as a recent search doesn't populate content and instead directs users to a resource page on substance abuse.

At last check, there has not been a new response from TikTok after Jacob's death.

In March, TikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew faced Congress about the app's safety related to how it stores Americans data and teens.

TikTok has over 150 million users in the U.S.

While the vast majority of people using the app are over 18, "we spend a lot of time adopting measures to protect teenagers. Many of those measures are firsts for the social media industry. We forbid direct messaging for people under 16. We have a 60-minute watch time by default for those under 18. And we have a suite of family pairing tools so parents can participate in their teen's experience and make choices that are right for their family," Chew told lawmakers.

Chew has said safety, particularly for teenagers, is a top priority for the company.