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Is Benadryl Addictive?

Benadryl is a medication commonly used for allergy and itch relief. But is Benadryl addictive? Read on to learn more.

Understanding Benadryl

Benadryl is an antihistamine. It works to reduce histamine activity, which are chemicals created by the immune system that causes it to overreact to an allergen. 1

Benadryl is typically used to relieve allergy symptoms such as itching, watery eyes, congestion, sneezing and rash. It can also reduce nausea, vomiting, and dizziness related to motion sickness. Benadryl can also sometimes be used to help you fall asleep or help with insomnia.

Why is Benadryl Addictive?

It may be hard to believe that an over-the-counter allergy treatment can be addictive, but Benadryl has been associated with dependency issues. Benadryl’s ability to reduce histamine activity in the body has a sedative effect, and many turn to it to relieve anxiety and treat insomnia. After a while, the body needs more of the drug to get the desired results. So, when a person stops taking Benadryl, they will usually be unable to sleep, and they may become more anxious. Other Benadryl withdrawal symptoms will occur as well. 2

The only way to get rid of these symptoms in the short-term is to take more of the drug, meaning an addiction to the drug can form. Although an addiction to Benadryl may form, it will only occur if the drug is taken in excessive doses.

How Common is Benadryl Addiction?

While diphenhydramine addiction is rare, there was a rise in overdose cases due to the TikTok Benadryl Challenge. The 2020 challenge asked participants to use the drug deliberately and excessively. Several users were hospitalized, and one overdose occurred. 3

Side Effects of Benadryl Addiction

Is Benadryl addictive

There are both short- and long-term effects of a Benadryl substance abuse disorder, and it’s important to know what these are so you can notice them in either yourself or a loved one. There are also some notable signs of an overdose that can help if someone has taken too much of the substance.

Short-Term Side Effects

The short-term side effects of Benadryl addiction include:

  • Memory and thinking impairments
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Liver issues
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Long-Term Side Effects

There are several long-term effects of a Benadryl addiction as well, including:

  • Difficulties with cognition and coordination
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, seizures, and hallucinations
  • Kidney and liver issues
  • Increased dementia risk
  • Double vision
  • Trembling

Risks of Benadryl Overdose

A diphenhydramine overdose can occur if Benadryl is taken excessively, either in one dose or over time. Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Delirium
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Severe agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Inability to walk

Signs and Symptoms of Benadryl Addiction

There are many different signs and symptoms of Benadryl addiction. These symptoms can affect everyone differently, as addiction varies for everyone. It’s important to be aware of all the signs, however, as it can help you notice when you or a loved one may be exhibiting them. Here are some of the most common physical, psychological, social, and behavioral signs of Benadryl addiction. 

Physical Signs of Benadryl Addiction

Common physical symptoms of Benadryl addiction include:

  • Inability to fall asleep unless the drug is in your system
  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shivering
  • Increased anxiety when you don’t take the drug

Psychological Signs of Benadryl Addiction

Some examples of psychological signs of a Benadryl substance abuse disorder are:

  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating

Behavioral Signs of Benadryl Addiction

Behavioral signs of Benadryl addiction can be a bit harder to spot, but some common ones include:

  • Lack of self-care
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues
  • Spending a large amount of time attaining and taking the drug

Social Signs of Benadryl Addiction

Social signs of a Benadryl addiction can look like:

  • Withdrawing from society
  • Troubled relationships
  • Inability to enjoy the things you once loved

Benadryl Withdrawal

After an addiction to Benadryl forms, the body gets used to having the drug in its system. This is called developing a tolerance to the drug, and often means that the body needs to receive more of the drug to get the same effects as before. This can be dangerous in many ways, especially when trying to detox from Benadryl.

When you stop taking Benadryl, withdrawal symptoms will appear, including the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches or fever
  • Itching
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens
  • Dementia
  • Digestive issues
  • Panic attacks

Benadryl Addiction Withdrawal Timeline

If you are addicted to Benadryl and stop taking it suddenly, withdrawal symptoms will begin within three to twelve hours into Benadryl detox. These generally peak around one to two days later.

After that, they will begin to dissipate. In most cases, they will go away completely in seven to fourteen days. This timeline is slightly different for everyone, depending on how much of the substance was used, along with how long the patient used Benadryl for.

Treatment for Benadryl Addiction and Abuse

Benadryl addiction

If you or a loved one have been using Benadryl in a way that doesn’t match how it is prescribed, and find your body is unable to function normally when it’s not in your system, you are likely to have a Benadryl addiction. There are many ways to treat a Benadryl addiction, and each plan can be tailored for each patient’s needs.

Benadryl Addiction Treatment Options

There are multiple forms of treatment available, including:

  • Residential Treatment Program:  A residential program requires you to be in a facility constantly for a one-to-three-month period. It is recommended for people that have severe addictions.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: An intensive outpatient involves splitting your time between treatment and home life. You may be in the facility for six or eight hours a day. It can be a primary treatment or a follow up to residential care. 
  • Outpatient Treatment: Outpatient treatment for Benadryl abuse requires just a few therapy visits a month. It is typically the final stage of treatment.

Stages of Benadryl Addiction Treatments

There are a few common stages for those that go through Benadryl recovery, including: 

  • Detox: If you have a Benadryl dependency, detox will be the first stage of recovery. It involves allowing your body to rid itself of toxic substances. Withdrawal symptoms will occur, but medical staff will oversee the process to keep you as comfortable as possible.
  • Medication: Medication may be used to reduce Benadryl withdrawal symptoms. It can also treat underlying causes of diphenhydramine addiction, like anxiety and depression.
  • Mental Health Therapy: People with a Benadryl dependence will talk to a therapist as part of treatment. Typically, a dual diagnosis approach will be integrated, which simultaneously treats addiction and its underlying cause.[4]
  • Peer Support Groups: This type of group therapy involves gathering with your peers so you can discuss common problems and know you are not alone. 

Contact an Addiction Professional at Genesis Recovery Today

There are many rehab facilities that can address Benadryl abuse, but Genesis Recovery takes an approach that sets us apart.

Genesis Recovery is a nonprofit rehab center in San Diego. We integrate several modalities and work out a customized plan that is best suited to your needs. We incorporate a sense of faith and community to increase feelings of self-worth. Contact Genesis Recovery for the help you need in addressing Benadryl abuse symptoms. We will get you headed on a path to a higher quality of life.


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