Alcohol and Benadryl – Addiction, Recovery and The Aftercare

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Alcohol and Benadryl

Millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Additionally, a large portion of the population turns to drugs like diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, to curb the effects of allergic reactions to everything from bee stings to poison ivy. Benadryl is an antihistamine, which means it works within to body to block its responses to allergens. 

Benadryl is easy to obtain. It can be found in most states either in a brand name or generic form in pharmacies, grocery stores, and many gas stations. Because of the relative ease with which Benadryl can be obtained, many people think it is safe to use in any situation despite product package warnings about drowsiness and other side effects. The most severe side effects associated with Benadryl come when you combine it with alcohol.

Unfortunately, mixing drugs and alcohol is common and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with a dependence on alcohol and Benadryl, it is essential to know recovery can be tricky. If you need help defeating your dependence on substances, reach out to the Hills in Los Angeles today.

What is Benadryl?

In its generic form, diphenhydramine is used to treat the symptoms associated with allergies and allergic reactions. It will help reduce symptoms related to allergens, including sneezing, runny nose, cough, red and itchy eyes, and throat irritation. In some cases, diphenhydramine is used to prevent motion sickness and to treat insomnia. It belongs to a class of substances called antihistamines and works by blocking the actions of histamines in the body. These are naturally occurring substances in the body that cause allergic symptoms. In its brand name, Benadryl is only approved to treat allergy symptoms and for no other use. Because Benadryl will, in almost all cases, cause drowsiness, it is frequently misused as a sleep aid. In addition, if you struggle with sleep and take sleep aids or other medications, Benadryl can react negatively with these drugs.

What are the Side Effects of Benadryl?

Benadryl is used to treat common symptoms associated with seasonal and acute allergy conditions. While beneficial for these uses, it is not without side effects. Common side effects associated with using Benadryl include dry mouth, headaches, drowsiness, and dizziness. For some people, it can cause agitation and excitability. Consuming alcohol, another sedative, with Benadryl can enhance many of these side effects. Benadryl acts as a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows down the effects and actions of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

Can You Become Addicted to Benadryl?

In short, no. However, Benadryl and its generic form, diphenhydramine, can be easily abused. Using antihistamines for reasons other than their approved and intended use is considered substance abuse. When you take an amount in excess of what is recommended or prescribed, you can quickly develop a tolerance. While this does not mean you are addicted (as defined by science or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders definition of addiction), it does mean you are developing or have developed a negative relationship with substances.

In some cases, people go on to develop a psychological dependence on Benadryl just as they would with alcohol or another other addictive substance.

This is known as having “a craving,” which is the dangerous and overwhelming need to use regardless of the knowledge that using the substance can cause harm. These two elements, the physical tolerance and the psychological dependence (cravings), are what create what people refer to or consider to be diphenhydramine addiction. Although some may not call this addiction in the classic sense, it is still a chemical dependency that must be treated seriously and immediately to ensure you are provided with the help and treatment you need to overcome a reliance on substances.

Why Combining Alcohol and Benadryl is Dangerous

Alcohol and Benadryl both work to depress the central nervous system. For this reason, taking them together is dangerous because they can act simultaneously to slow your central nervous system down too much. This results in sedation and difficulties doing physical and mental tasks you need to maintain alertness and safety. The worst-case scenario is that the double dose of drowsiness from taking two sedatives can increase the likelihood of an accident or lead to unconsciousness and potentially death. In addition to central nervous system depression, various other dangers are associated with combining alcohol and Benadryl. Both substances cause dehydration, leading to a variety of complications, including constipation and reduced blood pressure. Benadryl acts on the neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for learning and memory. Benadryl on its own can contribute to learning and memory impairment, but when combined with alcohol, short term memory recollection may be vastly reduced.

Additionally, some medications contain up to ten percent alcohol as part of their formulary. Two of the most common are cough syrups and laxatives. If one combines Benadryl, alcohol, and medication that contains alcohol, serious, potentially fatal consequences can result. Last but likely not least, studies have shown that those who take at least one antihistamine drug per day over the course of three years have an increased risk for dementia. Another study showed that excessive alcohol use is also associated with a higher risk of dementia. Consequently, it is not a significant stretch to believe that consuming Benadryl and alcohol together overtime could be linked to an increased risk of dementia.

When to Seek Treatment

Improperly using multiple substances, such as Benadryl and alcohol, is known as polysubstance or polydrug abuse and is a serious problem. While the combined effects of certain substances may enhance the drugs’ desired effects, they can also enhance the potential adverse effects of each drug. Mixing drugs can bring about unpredictable consequences. This means those who engage in polysubstance abuse cannot predict the array or severity of the negative consequences that could result from combining drugs. The short- and long-term effects of polysubstance abuse can be challenging to predict as they vary based on the particular combination of substances used.

Because withdrawal from multiple substances is more complicated than withdrawal from one substance, inpatient medical detox at an addiction treatment facility like The Hills in Los Angeles is recommended. With medically supervised detox, you will be provided with 24 hours per day supervision by medical professionals, continual monitoring of vital signs, and the availability for emergency medical intervention should it be necessary. In some cases, medical staff can also administer medications to help reduce the severity of certain withdrawal symptoms. Because withdrawing from multiple substances can be an unpredictable process, continual medical monitoring is always needed to ensure your safety. The supports and encouragement available in a medically supervised detox setting decreases the likelihood of relapse and increases your chances of transitioning successfully to therapy and achieving your treatment goals.

Although detox is a first and vital step in the recovery process, it is not an effective standalone treatment. It must be followed by evidence-based, comprehensive addiction treatment that includes therapy. Therapy for substance use disorders, including polysubstance abuse, generally involves cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy focuses on the behavioral and thought patterns that further substance abuse. The goal of therapy is to ask patients to examine their thoughts and behaviors to help understand the root causes of addiction. They are then encouraged to modify their thoughts and behaviors to promote safer and healthier responses. For an addiction treatment program to be successful, it is essential that the program is tailored to each client’s individual goals and needs. Because addiction is different and unique to the individual, cookie-cutter treatment programs will not be successful. In addition to therapy tailored to meet your treatment needs, it is also important to ensure that the overall treatment program addresses the entire person. This means providing therapy that addresses not only the addiction but the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the client as well. In the case of those struggling with polysubstance abuse, this also requires identifying the reasons in circumstances that led to the desire to abuse any substance and then dealing with those issues appropriately.

Depending on the success of treatment, it may be necessary to restructure or redesigned your treatment plan throughout the recovery process. As you progress through your recovery, various alterations can be made, especially if a particular therapy is proving ineffective. With the appropriate comprehensive care, someone struggling with polysubstance abuse such as Benadryl and alcohol can achieve sobriety and recovery.

At The Hills, we understand the challenges and unique difficulties that come with addiction. We know that the decision to seek treatment can be challenging but, acknowledging your struggle with substances is an essential first step towards achieving sobriety. At The Hills, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on evidence-based therapies that have been proven effective in addiction treatment. Our caring and compassionate staff will be here to guide you throughout each step of your journey, beginning with detox and ending with a robust, uniquely designed aftercare plan. Comprehensive aftercare planning is essential to maintaining ongoing recovery. As you approach the end of your treatment plan, our team will work with you to design an aftercare plan that includes continuing therapy and access to support groups and other community supports. These essential treatment components can help you continue to practice and strengthen vital coping skills learned throughout treatment.

Polysubstance abuse can lead to severe consequences. If you or a loved one struggle with a dependency on alcohol and Benadryl, don’t want another day to seek help. Let the staff at The Hills in Los Angeles help you take those first steps towards a future free of substance dependency.


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