Stevens participated in the challenge—which involves taking 12 to 14 pills of the antihistamine—alongside some friends at his home. His sister called 911 after he started to have a seizure as a result of the Benadryl, and it took paramedics around an hour before they were able to get his heart beating steadily. Stevens was eventually placed on a ventilator when he arrived at the hospital, where he died about a week later.
In a statement provided to CNN, TikTok offered sympathies to the family. “At TikTok, we strictly prohibit and remove content that promotes dangerous behavior with the safety of our community as a priority,” reads the statement. “We have never seen this type of content trend on our platform and have blocked searches for years to help discourage copycat behavior. Our team of 40,000 safety professionals works to remove violations of our Community Guidelines and we encourage our community to report any content or accounts they’re concerned about.”
Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactures Benadryl, has spoken out against the rise of the deadly challenge. “We understand that consumers may have heard about an online ‘challenge’ involving the misuse or abuse of diphenhydramine," reads a statement issued on the company's website. "The challenge, which involves ingestion of excessive quantities of diphenhydramine, is a dangerous trend and should be stopped immediately. BENADRYL® products and other diphenhydramine products should only be used as directed by the label.”
"I’m going to do anything I can to make sure another child doesn’t go through it," said his grandmother, Dianna Stevens. His father, Justin Stevens, described the day his son suffered from the seizure as “the worst day of his life.” According to his family, friends recorded him ingesting the drug.
“It didn’t matter how bad of a day I was having no one could make me smile, Jacob could make me smile," added his father, who said he’s now committed to making sure this doesn’t happen to other children. "Keep an eye at what they're doing on that phone. Talk to them about the situation I want everyone to know about my son. ... I already sent a message to [Ohio governor] Mr. Dewine. It's my life goal now to make that happen. I'll go at it until the day I die." He also hopes that social media platforms such as TikTok will implement age restrictions.
There is a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of his hospital care and funeral. In 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning over the challenge.