FDA warns against 'very unsafe' social media trends targeting teenagers

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration is warning parents and teens about "very unsafe" social media trends, including a recent one that has begun trending online involving cooking chicken in NyQuil.

The challenge -- which the FDA called "silly and unappetizing" and "very unsafe" -- encourages people to cook chicken in NyQuil or another similar over-the-counter cough and cold medication before eating it.

It is unclear how many people have participated in this trend even though the FDA has taken the step to warn against it.

"Social media trends and peer pressure can be a dangerous combination to your children and their friends, especially when involving misusing medicines," the FDA said in a statement slamming the trend. "One social media trend relying on peer pressure is online video clips of people misusing nonprescription medications and encouraging viewers to do so too. These video challenges, which often target youths, can harm people - and even cause death."

Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties, the FDA warns.

"Even if you don't eat the chicken, inhaling the medication's vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs. Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it," the FDA continued.

This is not the first time the FDA has had to issue a public warning against dangerous online social media trends.

Two years ago another challenge that began on TikTok urged people to take large doses of Benadryl in an attempt to induce hallucinations. This prompted the FDA to issue a public warning on how dangerous the practice was following news reports that emerged of teenagers needing to go to the emergency room -- and in some cases dying -- after taking too much medication.

"Nonprescription (also called over-the-counter or OTC) drugs are readily available in many homes, making these challenges even more risky," said the FDA about the latest challenge. "OTC drugs can pose significant risks if they're misused or abused."

The FDA said that there are things you can do to protect your children against these harmful social media trends.

The most effective way to ensure safety is to sit down with your children and discuss the dangers of misusing drugs.

"Social media trends can lead to real, sometimes irreversible, damage," said the FDA. "Remind your children that overdoses can occur with OTC drugs as well as with prescription drugs."

Another way to protect against harmful trends is to keep both OTC and prescription drugs away from children by locking them up in the house to prevent accidental overdose. Additionally, when administering medicine, always be sure to read the drug facts label and how to use it.

"The label tells you what the medicine is supposed to do, who should or shouldn't take it, and how to use it. [It] uses simple language and an easy-to-read format to help people compare and select medicines and follow dosage instructions," said the FDA.

The FDA issued a broad warning to be beware of any online trending challenges involving any kind of medicine, either prescription or over-the counter.

"Social media challenge or not, it is important to use medications as intended."

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