If you were to ask a group of people to name the first addictive substance they can think of, the odds of someone mentioning Benadryl are fairly slim. Is that because there’s no such thing as Benadryl addiction, or because most people don’t realize that Benadryl is addictive?
What is Benadryl?
Benadryl is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can alleviate symptoms such as itchiness, rashes, runny nose, watery eyes, and a variety of related symptoms. It is commonly used by people who have conditions such as hay fever, allergies, poison oak, and poison ivy. It can also help ease modest pain due to small cuts or minor burns.
People who have allergies or hay fever usually take Benadryl orally as a tablet or liquid, while those who have cuts, rashes, or burns typically use a gel or cream version of the medication, which can be applied directly to their skin.
The active ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine.
Can You Become Addicted to Benadryl?
Many people mistakenly believe that over-the-counter medications don’t pose a risk of significant side effects, since no prescription or medical oversight is required to purchase and use them.
While it is true that OTC meds are usually less likely to be harmful, it’s important to remember that “less likely” doesn’t mean there is no risk whatsoever. If a person misuses a medication, either intentionally or accidentally, the likelihood of negative repercussions can increase considerably.
Regarding Benadryl specifically, common side effects include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Slight sedation (drowsiness)
- Stomach ache
- Blurred vision
Less common, but more serious, side effects of Benadryl can include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Racing heart rate
- Tightness in the jaw or neck
- Difficulty urinating
Anyone who experiences any of the serious side effects listed above after using Benadryl should stop using the medication and consult with a healthcare provider immediately.
But what about Benadryl addiction? Does someone who uses this medication need to worry that they will become dependent on it, and will be unable to stop using it?
Here are the facts:
- Is Benadryl addictive? Yes, it is.
- Is Benadryl addiction common? No, it is not.
As defined by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), substance use disorders (addictions) are characterized by symptoms such as the following:
- Strong urges to use the substance
- Needing to use larger amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effects (which is known as developing tolerance)
- Using the substance in clearly dangerous ways, such as by combining it with other drugs
- Continuing to use the substance even after incurring harm as a result of prior use
- Failing to meet personal, academic, or occupational responsibilities because of your use of the substance
- Using the substance more frequently, or in larger amounts, than intended
- Experiencing physical and/or psychological distress when you can’t use the substance, or when you try to end your use of it
- Attempting to stop using the substance, but being unable to do so
By these standards, a person can definitely develop a Benadryl addiction. We’ll discuss one of the classic signs of Benadryl addiction – withdrawal symptoms – a bit later in this post.
Dangers of Benadryl Addiction
You now know that Benadryl can be addictive. But you may be wondering if Benadryl addiction is really that dangerous. It’s not as bad as being addicted to cocaine or heroin, right?
Here’s another fact for you: There’s no such thing as a harmless addiction. Becoming dependent on any substance can derail your efforts to live a healthy, productive, and satisfying life. Just because Benadryl addiction doesn’t appear in the news as often as alcoholism or opioid addiction, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it if it happens to you or someone you care about.
To underscore this point, here are a few examples of the possible effects of Benadryl addiction:
- Physical harm due to slips, falls, or other accidents while impaired
- Substandard performance in school or at work
- Conflicts with friends and family members
- Damaged or ruined relationships
- Development or worsening of co-occurring mental illnesses
- Disrupted heart rhythm
A study that was released in 2016 found that diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl) is involved in about 3.2% of overdose deaths each year in the United States. Tragically, most of these cases involve children who accidentally ingested a toxic amount of the medication, but they the danger that Benadryl can pose to anyone who misuses it.
Are There Benadryl Withdrawal Symptoms?
When you have become addicted to Benadryl, abruptly ending your use of this medication can trigger a variety of withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Excessive perspiration
- Elevated heart rate
Can Benadryl Addiction Be Treated?
Addictions – including Benadryl addiction – are treatable conditions. The key to success is finding the type and level of care that aligns with your specific needs, goals, and preferences.
Factors to consider when trying to determine the optimal treatment for Benadryl addiction include:
- Do you need help to get through Benadryl withdrawal?
- Have you been abusing (or become addicted to) any other substances?
- Do you have a history of untreated trauma?
- Are you experiencing the symptoms of any co-occurring mental health concerns?
- Do you need 24/7 care or round-the-clock supervision?
When you find a treatment program such as LA Detox that will assess the full scope of your needs, then develop a personalized plan just for you, you will be in the best position to end your Benadryl use and achieve successful recovery.
Contact Our Addiction Treatment Center at Los Angeles Detox
Los Angeles Detox is a trusted source of compassionate care for adults in Southern California who have become addicted to Benadryl and other substances.
Our addiction treatment center in Los Angeles is a safe and supportive place where you will be cared for by a team of highly skilled professionals. We understand the ways that compulsive substance abuse can affect every part of your life, and we’ll work with you to develop the focused solutions that will help you achieve true healing in mind, body, and spirit.
To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call our center today.