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Benadryl and Alcohol

Dangers of Mixing Benadryl and Alcohol. Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Benadryl Addiction and Alcoholism

What is Benadryl?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a brand name for an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that’s classified as an antihistamine [1]. It’s used to help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies such as hay fever, other allergies, the common cold, and itchy skin due to insect bites, hives, and other causes. People who are addicted to Benadryl often have simultaneous addictions to alcohol and other drugs. Therefore, asking for expert help in an inpatient drug rehab center might be an option that users can consider if they struggle with their substance abuse disorders.

Benadryl or Diphenhydramine is also most often used to treat vomiting, allergic rhinitis, nausea, mild to severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, and as a mild sleep aid. However, due to easy access to this over-the-counter medication, it is often abused which can lead to acute intoxication, and if taken in large doses, it can lead to Benadryl overdose.

Benadryl and Alcohol
Drinking alcohol and taking Benadryl makes it harder to control body movement well for people of all ages. But it may be even riskier for seniors.

Over the past 20 years or so, the drug misuse scenario has seen the emergence of both prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications being reported as ingested for recreational purposes. OTC drugs such as antihistamines, cold and cough medications, and decongestants are reportedly the most popular in being diverted and abused.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that taking higher than recommended doses of the popular over-the-counter (OTC) allergy drug diphenhydramine (commonly known as Benadryl) may lead to, serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death. FDA is aware of news reports of a person ending up in emergency rooms after playing in the “Benadryl Challenge” encouraged in videos posted on the social media app TikTok.

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Can You Mix Benadryl and Alcohol?

The combination of Benadryl and alcohol can be dangerous. While Benadryl doesn’t affect the liver, it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. When Benadryl and alcohol are taken at the same time, the impact on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) can lead to severe and heightened side effects. In some cases, this combination can be deadly. Drugs classified as depressants slow down the body’s nerve and brain function.

Both Benadryl and alcohol are classified as CNS depressants. First-generation antihistamines will cause drowsiness in just about everybody and alcohol does that too, so if someone is taking alcohol and antihistamines the chance of having a double dose of that drowsiness are very, very high. Depression of the central nervous system (CNS) can cause a slower rate of breathing, decreased heart rate, and loss of consciousness, and can lead to a coma in rare cases.

Effects of Mixing Benadryl and Alcohol

Loss of consciousness

  • Some individuals are more prone than others to losing consciousness when sedated. In these individuals, mixing Benadryl and alcohol is more likely to cause a loss of consciousness. This can be dangerous due to the likelihood of falls and other accidents.


  • Benadryl can cause side effects, including drowsiness and sedation, which impair reaction speed and coordination. Mixing Benadryl and alcohol can intensify these side effects and will impair an individual’s daily functioning. This can be fatal if it involves certain activities, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Complications in older adults

  • Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol so that it may stay in the system of an older adult for longer than someone younger. This slowdown increases the time a person will be at risk of a harmful interaction between Benadryl and alcohol.


  • Benadryl and alcohol are both known to dehydrate the body. Combining them can increase the risk of dehydration. This can cause discomfort at the time and may worsen a hangover.

Learning and memory impairment

  • Benadryl blocks the action of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is necessary for memory and learning, so blocking its action may temporarily impair these processes.
  • Alcohol is also known to inhibit memory and learning temporarily. So, mixing Benadryl and alcohol may again have a more noticeable effect on learning and memory.

Interactions with other types of medication

  • Benadryl may interact with other types of medication, which can increase the side effects. Taking these other types of medications with alcohol could also increase the risk of side effects [2].

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Examples of medications that may interact with Benadryl include:

  • Sedatives
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Antidepressants
  • Stomach ulcer medicine
  • Cough and cold medicine
  • Other antihistamines


  • Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of dementia. It is possible that consuming large amounts of Benadryl and alcohol over long periods of time could be linked to an increased risk of dementia.
  • However, longitudinal research would be required on people who consume high levels of Benadryl and alcohol to know whether this has any effect on the risk of dementia.


  • In general, females are more susceptible to alcohol-related harm. This is because their bodies typically contain less water for alcohol to mix with, meaning that the same amount of alcohol would be more concentrated in a female than in a male.
  • Mixing Benadryl and alcohol may be particularly hazardous for females, as consuming smaller amounts of alcohol could trigger adverse interaction effects.
Benadryl and Alcohol
It’s important to know what Benadryl overdose symptoms look like to be able to recognize them in yourself or a loved one.

Other sources of alcohol

  • Some types of medication, including laxatives and cough syrup, also contain alcohol. They can include up to 10 percent alcohol, which may interact with Benadryl.
  • As a consequence, taking Benadryl with these medications when consuming very small amounts of alcohol may still increase the risk of adverse side effects.


  • As Benadryl and alcohol both cause sedation and drowsiness, it may seem tempting to exploit this combination as a sleeping aid. However, this can also heighten other adverse side effects that will interfere with sleep, such as dizziness and nausea.

How Long After Taking Antihistamines Can I Drink Alcohol?

Antihistamines such as Benadryl are known to stay in your system for up to 48 hours. But this could be extended to older adults. It’s highly recommended that you wait until the drugs wear off before drinking alcohol. The rate of elimination from the system varies from person to person. As such, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider about when it’s safe to resume alcohol use after antihistamine medication.

Alcohol affects the effectiveness of antihistamines, such as Benadryl, especially if speaking about the medications of older adults. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect the antihistamines effect as it increases the chances of making one feel sleepy. Moreover, alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and a lot of drugs also go via the same path. So, it comes with the potential to interact with the whole host of drugs.

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Benadryl and Alcohol Overdose

An excessive combination of Benadryl and alcohol could lead to an overdose. However, you would likely have to ingest significant doses of both drugs. If you overdose on Benadryl and alcohol and lose consciousness, death is one of the risks.

While Benadryl is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication and is commonly used, it can cause dangerous side effects. That’s why it should never combine with alcohol.

Taking more than the directed dose of Benadryl makes an overdose more likely. Side effects will be uncomfortable, rather than euphoric. Anecdotal evidence about Benadryl highs suggests that the results are more unsettling rather than enjoyable.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Benadryl Addiction and Alcoholism

Alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in America, as more than 17 million people in the United States are considered to suffer from addiction to alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) [3], publishes that over 1.5 million American adults were considered to be currently abusing a prescription drug.

A pattern of using any two substances simultaneously over time can develop into polysubstance misuse. Polysubstance issues can develop whether you use the substance to address health concerns—such as allergy symptoms and sleep disturbances—or recreationally.

A person may develop a substance use disorder. This is the diagnosis used to describe the behaviors broadly referred to as “addiction.” If one of the substances is alcohol, a person can develop alcohol use disorder. If a person often or almost always uses the same substances together, he or she may develop polysubstance use disorder.

A wide variety of options are available to help the person stop taking Benadryl and alcohol and avoid serious side effects from polysubstance abuse. Many Benadryl abusers respond well to residential rehab programs. 

If you are experiencing Benadryl and alcohol addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional. 

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Medically-Assisted Detox

Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of Adderall and alcohol withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

Benadryl and Alcohol
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[1] NCBI –

[2] NIAAA –

[3] SAMHSA –

[4] NIH –

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