No, teens aren’t trying to OD on Tylenol for the #ParacetamolChallenge

All too often, teenagers’ social circles act as breeding grounds for dumb, potentially life-threatening stunts — just ask Justin Bieber. The latest “trend” to fall in the category of Dumb Stuff Undertaken by Young People, in the same vein as the recent “sleeper” craze or “beezin“? The #ParacetamolChallenge, which comes to us from Scotland. 

The #ParacetamolChallenge reportedly involves kids daring other kids to take large amounts of paracetamol, known to us in the United States as acetaminophen. (It’s the active ingredient in Tylenol.) 

Though commonly prescribed to treat pain, acetaminophen also poses a high risk of accidental overdose. As ProPublica reported in an in-depth 2012 feature:

“Taken over several days, as little as 25 percent above the maximum daily dose – or just two additional extra strength pills a day – has been reported to cause liver damage. … Taken all at once, a little less than four times the maximum daily dose can cause death. A comparable figure doesn’t exist for ibuprofen, because so few people have died from overdosing on that drug.”

With this in mind, a craze of the #ParacetamolChallenge variety would be a dangerous game well worth parental outcry. Mandy Yousaf, whose daughter Charlotte died from a paracetamol overdose, urged others not to partake in the challenge, saying “Don’t end up like my daughter did.” The Coatbridge Police in Lanarkshire is also warning families of the trend via Twitter.

News outlets like the Guardian, the Independent and the Telegraph picked up on the trend, too, reporting on the severe danger of overdosing on the over-the-counter medicine. Twitter users are also warning teenagers not to partake in the challenge.

It’s true that paracetamol, when taken in high doses, can be hazardous to your health. In a 2009 report on the drug, the FDA says taking too much acetaminophen is a leading cause of liver injury, referring to overdoses as a “persistent, important public health problem.”

While accidental overdose on a drug that’s meant to be safe is clearly no laughing matter, when it comes to the #ParacetamolChallenge, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re all on the receiving end of a mere prank.


The so-called “challenge” seems to have been made up out of whole cloth. The first sign of the hashtag was this tweet by Twitter user @Robbie_Demure:


Later, when he’s asked for evidence, Robbie’s got nothing.

Robbie Demure/Twitter

The only thing he’s an expert on? Sick-ass beats.

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We’ve reached out to Robbie for comment, and will update if we hear back. But for now, it’s safe to chalk up the #ParacetamolChallenge to a bunch of teenagers trying to mess with concerned parents’ heads—or to one teenager trying to promote his mixtape, as the case may be. 

H/T The Independent | Photo via Michelle Tribe/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Kasia Pilat

Kasia Pilat

Kasia Pilat is a multimedia journalist who worked with the Daily Dot while completing her thesis project with New York University. She's also contributed to WNYC, the Guardian U.S., and Paste Magazine. In 2016, she was a finalist for the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award for her multimedia website What Is Home?.