Is Benadryl Addictive?

Is Benadryl addictive? Use this guide to learn about Benadryl, its addictive properties, treatment options, and more.

What Is Benadryl?

Benadryl, a brand name for diphenhydramine, is an antihistamine that reduces the effects caused by the body’s natural chemical, histamine. Histamine is known to produce symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes. Benadryl is often used to treat seasonal allergies, other allergies, the common cold, hives, itchy skin caused by bug bites, and more.
is Benadryl addictive


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How Can Benadryl Be Taken?

Benadryl is available in a variety of forms. Some are oral (taken by mouth), while others are applied to the skin. Here are some examples:
  • Oral pills
  •  Liquid-filled capsules or liquid gels for oral administration
  • Chewy tablets for oral administration
  • Liquid oral solution
  • Topical gel
  • Spray for the skin

Is Benadryl Addictive?

Benadryl’s main component, diphenhydramine, is highly addictive. It can become addictive if used regularly in liquid, pill, or capsule form. While it is still sold as an over-the-counter drug and is not considered a controlled substance, 69% of pharmacists report diphenhydramine as a risk for abuse.1

Benadryl works by stopping the body from producing histamine due to allergic responses. When taken, Benadryl has a sedative effect; that is why most people who have insomnia utilize it as a sleep aid. Because the medication is readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets, it has become a commonly misused narcotic throughout time.

Benadryl Abuse

While it’s effective in treating allergies, Benadryl is also used to help with sleeplessness, nausea, tremors, the common cold, and Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Due to its many uses, Benadryl abuse is a common occurrence.

The symptoms of Benadryl addiction are similar to those of other illnesses, such as psychosis, and it might go unnoticed for a long time. Once the body becomes acclimated to the drug, a complete addiction develops, requiring higher doses to attain the same outcomes.

Why Do People Abuse Benadryl?

When used with other medications like antihistamines and anxiety medications, it might cause drowsiness and other unpleasant side effects. In addition, Benadryl can induce dementia, disorientation, hallucinations, and an elevated heart rate in older people.

List of Common Factors that Influence Benadryl Addiction

People abuse Benadryl for different reasons:
  • It is readily available in pharmacies and drug stores as an over-the-counter drug.
  • It is very potent in inducing sleep, so insomnia patients commonly abuse it.
  • Because of its short duration of effect and tendency for tolerance building, patients may take increasing doses of Benadryl at repeated intervals, meeting the criteria of Benadryl addiction.
  • When combined with other drugs, it can increase energy levels, mood, and dopaminergic neurotransmission. 

How Does Benadryl Work?

Benadryl works by inhibiting the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the body as a component of the immunological response. Histamine medicates nasal allergy symptoms such as increased mucus development, swelling, and itching. As the name implies, this antihistamine has a calming effect on these nasal allergy symptoms.
In addition, Benadryl is an anticholinergic drug because it can reduce the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends signals within the brain throughout the central nervous system.

What Is Benadryl Used for? ​

As mentioned above, Benadryl has many uses. The most common uses include:

Common Cold ​

Benadryl is used to treat the minor symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose and sneezing. However, according to studies, this medication does not improve symptoms of a cough.2

Skin Irritation ​

Benadryl-containing anti-itch creams, gels, and sprays are applied to the skin to treat various forms of skin irritation. Adults and children over the age of two can use topical Benadryl to relieve itchy and irritated skin. When administered on the skin, the medicine relieves itching and suffering caused by bug bites, sunburn, rashes, or poison ivy.

Sleep ​

Drowsiness is a common side effect of Benadryl, and it is sometimes used as an off-label diagnosis for insomnia.

Oral Mucositis ​

It is also used off-label for oral mucositis, a condition that causes swelling of the mouth.

Symptoms of Benadryl Addiction

It is essential to be cautious while taking this drug to avoid addiction. Here are some symptoms to take note of:


People exposed to Benadryl over time will begin to show tolerance for the drug.


Diphenhydramine has been proven to produce withdrawal symptoms after long-term usage. The symptoms include nausea, sweating, diarrhea, stomach pains, irritability, and restlessness.

Increased Use

People who abuse Benadryl tend to continue using it. For example, people with insomnia use the drug to induce sleep every night, and as long as it continues to be effective, they continue to use it.

Loss of Control

The use of Benadryl causes a lack of control because the drug induces the body, causing involuntary movements.

Loss of Time

Benadryl addiction causes restlessness and hangover after nighttime use, leading to the inability to manage time well.

Decline in Body Function

People who abuse Benadryl can experience a decrease in the body’s functionality over time.
is Benadryl addictive

Benadryl Side Effects

Benadryl can have both moderate and severe adverse effects. The following health issues can occur as a result of diphenhydramine addiction:


Some of the effects of Benadryl might develop into a tolerance in the body. This indicates that the drug’s impact on the body diminishes with time.

Sedation, Tiredness, and Sleepiness

Benadryl causes tiredness and drowsiness, making it useful to remedy insomnia. One significant side effect is developing a dependence on the drug to induce sleep, making it highly impossible to sleep without it.


Benadryl, especially when taken daily, can cause constipation.

Disturbed Coordination

Benadryl affects the body’s coordination and neurological functions. Increased use of Benadryl increases the risk of experiencing physical issues like impaired coordination and psychological issues such as hallucination and restlessness.

Drying and Thickening of Oral and Other Respiratory Secretions

Benadryl also causes the body to lose moisture, resulting in the thickening of oral and other respiratory secretions.

Difficulty Urinating

Benadryl can cause acute kidney injury, leading to postrenal injury (obstruction of the urinary tract).

Conditions of the Brain

Research has found that anticholinergics like Benadryl can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.3

Treatment at Concise Recovery

Benadryl is a useful drug that can effectively subdue allergic symptoms, but it should not be used in high doses because of its addictive effects. Before taking Benadryl, a prescription from the pharmacist or a doctor is important to ensure it is safe for you.

ContactIf you or a loved one is experiencing Benadryl addiction symptoms or addiction to any other substance, contact Concise Recovery today.