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Reports of Benadryl misuse rising

August 27, 2013

A 13-year-old bought Benadryl from her neighbourhood pharmacy. Wanting to get high, she consumed 27 tablets and her friend consumed 3. Both girls are alive, but the doctors aren’t sure yet of any damage.

This is the most recent report we received, but not the first.

There has been a recent spike in reports of youth misusing single entity diphenhydramine products. Because a prescription is not needed, and because they are available in a pharmacy, many people mistakenly believe that OTC medicines are safer than prescription medicines and illegal street drugs. When taken improperly though, OTC medications can be very harmful.

Here are seven tips to help you prevent OTC product abuse.

  • Keep products with high abuse potential near the dispensary, in clear view of pharmacy staff.
  • Pay attention to inventory of these medications and track large runs and times during which they occur.
  • Make customer service a priority. Have staff circulating in the aisles. Don’t be afraid to assess or ask questions when needed.  
  • Train staff to be aware of patients who purchase an unusually large quantity of one product and have a plan for what to do when this occurs.
  • Watch out for situations where a patient buys the same quantity, but does so frequently (possibly every few days), when the medication would last for weeks under normal circumstances.
  • Encourage patients to store medicine in a safe location in their home.
  • Promote your medication return program and encourage patients to return all unused medications. 


Alcohol and Drug Use in Young People – a resource from that offers facts, prevention tips and harm reduction strategies – part of the National Anti-Drug Strategy. The site has separate sections for parents and youth with information on risks, dealing with peer pressure, communication, and getting help.

Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada – resources for families, including quizzes, checklists, and a drug slang dictionary