Misusing over-the-counter medications can have dangerous consequences, but recent social media trends encouraging this could be downright deadly for gullible teens, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.
One concerning trend called “sleepy chicken” has been encouraging people to cook chicken in NyQuil or other over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. It’s not appetizing, of course, and it can be very unsafe, the FDA warns.
Although it it gaining recent attention, the sleepy chicken challenge is nothing new. According to Know Your Meme, the challenge first showed up on the message board 4Chan in 2017. In 2020, it began to circulate on TikTok.
The dangers of “sleepy chicken”
Boiling the medication can make it more concentrated and change its properties. Even if the person cooking the chicken wasn’t planning to eat the poultry, breathing in the vapors from the cooked medicine could cause high levels of drugs to enter the person’s body and might also trigger lung damage, according to the agency.
“Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it,” the FDA said in its warning.
The FDA also noted an earlier TikTok challenge that encouraged people to take large doses of diphenhydramine, an allergy medication sometimes sold under the name Benadryl. The suggestion was that it could induce hallucinations.
Instead, teens trying the challenge ended up in the emergency room and some even died, the FDA said.
Teens and young people are most susceptible to these trends because their brains aren’t fully developed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Social media rewards outrageous behavior, and the more outrageous, the bigger the bragging rights,” the academy stated. “It’s a quick moving, impulsive environment, and the fear of losing out is real for teens. That environment plays into a teen’s underdeveloped ability to think through their actions and possible consequences.”
How to protect your child
These social media video challenges are often aimed at adolescents, so you can help protect your kids by locking up any medications — over-the-counter or prescription — to prevent an accidental overdose.
You can also talk with your kids about the dangers of misusing drugs and how social media trends can lead to