Updated on November 7, 2023
5 min read

Benadryl Addiction & Overdose (Symptoms & Treatment)

What is Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)?

Benadryl is a brand name FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Benadryl’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine, which is classified as an antihistamine medication.

Benadryl decreases or eliminates symptoms associated with allergies and the common cold, such as:

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes/nose/throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Benadryl works as an anticholinergic by blocking histamine and acetylcholine. Both are responsible for allergic reactions and cold symptoms.

Box of Benadryl

Is Benadryl Addictive?

Yes, if you frequently take high doses of Benadryl, there is a risk for diphenhydramine addiction. Although Benadryl is not physically addictive, users can develop a psychological dependency.

Diphenhydramine Abuse

Diphenhydramine can be abused due to Benadryl's sedative effects and its accessibility. The drug can also be used with benzodiazepines and alcohol to increase diphenhydramine's sedative effects. This can be dangerous.

If you take more than the recommended amount of Benadryl, you may experience changes such as:

  • Perception
  • Hallucinations
  • Vision
  • Mood

Research in the U.S. shows there has been an increased use of antihistamines as sleeping aids. However, people who rely on Benadryl for sleep have been shown to have a less restful sleep.

Symptoms of Benadryl Addiction

Symptoms of Benadryl addiction include:

  • Tolerance: A need for increased amounts of Benadryl to achieve intoxication or diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of Benadryl
  • Withdrawal: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, and physical discomfort
  • Increased Use: Taking Benadryl in larger amounts than the individual intended 
  • Loss of Control: Persistently failing to cut down on Benadryl use
  • Loss of Time: Excessive time spent on activities necessary to obtain, use, and recover from the effects of Benadryl abuse
  • Functioning Decline: Giving up or slowing down on important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of Benadryl abuse 

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Symptoms of Benadryl Overdose

It is possible to overdose on Bendaryl. If you take large amounts of the drug, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Very dry eyes
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there)
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Nervousness
  • Tremor
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

An overdose can be dangerous or even fatal. If you believe you are experiencing or witnessing an overdose, visit your local emergency room and contact your local poison control center.

Benadryl Overdose Symptoms in Toddlers

Benadryl and other antihistamine products are unsafe and ineffective in children under 6. Therefore, the medication should only be used with a prescription from a licensed medical provider.

When storing antihistamines, it is important to keep them out of the reach of children. Symptoms of antihistamine overdose in toddlers include the following:

  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Tremors
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dry Eyes
  • Dry Mouth
  • Dry red skin

If you believe your child is experiencing a drug overdose, visit your local emergency room and contact your local poison control center. 

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Benadryl Addiction Treatment Options

The first step in all addiction recovery is recognizing the problem. This involves evaluating what resources and support you need to overcome it. A good first step is often to talk to your primary healthcare provider about your concerns and determine the best level of care.


Suddenly stopping the drug may be dangerous without medical attention and support. This is especially true if you've been taking the drug for a long time. Detoxification or rehabilitation sites can assist you safely during the detox period. 

Individual Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling 

Individual counseling involves meeting with a licensed mental health professional. These meetings assist you in understanding:

  • Triggers for substance abuse
  • Strategies to reduce or stop substance abuse
  • Techniques and skills to help you move forward after treatment

Group Therapy 

Group therapy is a form of treatment in which a group of people with a common issue, such as substance abuse, meet regularly under the guidance of a trained facilitator. Group therapy can assist people in finding support, discussing issues in a judgment-free space, and gaining insight from other members.   

Peer Support Groups 

Peer support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are meetings led by community members who encourage honest introspection. 

Assisting Medication 

There are now several medications specifically designed to help treat substance abuse and dependence. Some work to block the receptors in the brain that allow for a high.

Other medications may assist in treating other psychological disorders exacerbating addiction. These include depression or anxiety. These medications are only U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for alcohol and opioid use disorders.

Benadryl Side Effects

When taken in the correct dose, Benadryl side effects are typically mild to moderate. However, Benadryl can still produce unwanted side effects.

Common side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Sedation, tiredness, and/or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Disturbed coordination
  • Drying and thickening of oral and other respiratory secretions
  • Difficulty urinating

Severe Side Effects of Benadryl

Benadryl may cause severe side effects. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Changes in heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Nausea

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Benadryl FAQs

Is diphenhydramine habit forming?

Yes. Though diphenhydramine (Benadryl) hasn't shown to be physically addictive, long-term use can lead to psychological addiction.

Is it safe to take Benadryl daily?

Benadryl should not be used long-term. Consult your doctor for an accurate recommended dose and treatment length.

What happens when you stop taking diphenhydramine (Benadryl)?

It is possible to experience acute withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking diphenhydramine if you have developed a dependency on the drug.

Is Benadryl addictive as a sleep aid?

Yes. Benadryl has not been shown to be physically addictive, however a psychological drug addiction to diphenhydramine can occur if used for an extended period.

How many antihistamines can you take in a day?

Refer to the drug information and disclaimers on the specific antihistamine to find the recommended dosage. Do not exceed this dosage. If you have further questions, consult a healthcare professional.

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Updated on November 7, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on November 7, 2023
  1. Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD. Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl), Antihistamine, Side Effects, Dosing, Uses. 30 Aug. 2017, www.medicinenet.com/diphenhydramine/article.htm

  2. “Diphenhydramine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Aug. 2018, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682539.html.

  3. Treatment, Center for Substance Abuse. “Exhibit 2-6, DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Substance Abuse and Substance Dependence - Managing Chronic Pain in Adults With or in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders - NCBI Bookshelf.” Managing Chronic Pain in Adults With or in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92053/table/ch2.t5/

  4. American Psychiatric Association. . Anxiety Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm05

  5. Borke, Jesse. “Diphenhydramine Overdose.” Mount Sinai Health System, www.mountsinai.org/health-library/poison/diphenhydramine-overdose

  6. Trouble Sleeping? Experts Say Skip Antihistamines. www.bcm.edu/news/experts-warn-against-antihistmaines-sleep-aid.

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