Have You Heard of the Sleepy Chicken Challenge?

The #SleepyChickenChallenge is the latest edition of a slew of dangerous social media challenges. In this rendition, people have been seen cooking raw chicken in liquid sleeping medication. First seen on TikTok, the video has since been taken down from the platform to protect the health and wellbeing of its users. However, before it was removed, the video was reposted on many other social media platforms and made its way into news headlines.

Many news channels reported on this challenge after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in September of 2022 advising people not to cook chicken in over-the-counter (OTC) medication, or any medication for that matter. The warning explained the numerous health consequences that could come from consuming unknown amounts of dextromethorphan (DXM), acetaminophen, and doxylamine. Some include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or stomach pains
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow reaction time
  • Death, in severe cases

The FDA explained that eating “sleepy chicken” is not the only way to experience health complications. “By cooking with the medication, the individual is boiling it down, causing it to become more concentrated and change its properties in other ways,” the administration said. “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… Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it.

Despite the FDA sounding the alarm, there have been no reports of deaths or hospitalizations caused by this challenge. It was clear to some that the original post was a troll, also known as a controversial joke made on the internet in an attempt to rile people up. This is most clear in the beginning of the video when the speaker recommends people use “four-thirds of the bottle.” Additionally, the “chef” using a hair straightener as a cooking utensil alludes to the implied ridiculousness of the post. Most understand that cooking raw chicken in sleeping medication is not best practice, but some social media users have popularized unappetizing meals and made unhealthy – sometimes unsafe – food a joke. The sheer number of people who made videos about the sleepy chicken challenge, whether consuming the chicken or not, made it necessary for the FDA to address and there likely would have been hospitalizations if the FDA didn’t spring into action.

The danger in this challenge is, first and foremost, the physical risk of consuming more medication than is instructed. Another danger, however, is something that has dominated news headlines for the last couple years: the spread of misinformation. It can be easier than we would like it to be to create fake accounts and post false, misleading information, thereby making it harder to determine what is real. The internet can be a treasure trove of delectable (and nonlethal) recipes, but it can also be a dangerous place as internet trolls may create and post bizarre content that puts others at risk. It’s important to give modern teenagers agency over their own internet use, but as a parent or guardian, it is also up to you to keep them safe and smart. Want to learn other social media challenges that could be putting your teen at risk? Check out this blog post.

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