Stop Cooking Chicken in Nyquil, FDA Begs in Response to Social Media Trend

It's hard to believe this has to be said out loud, but using cough syrup as a marinade is a bad idea.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Chicken cutlet cooked in Instant Pot

Thankfully, this chicken breast wasn't cooked in Nyquil.

David Watsky/CNET

It may seem like cooking up raw chicken in cough syrup is the stuff of nightmares, but videos purporting to do just that have appeared on platforms including TikTok and Instagram. Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning over the misuse of medicines as inspired by social media videos. 

Nyquil, an over-the-counter cough and cold medication, is made up of a combination of acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and doxylamine to treat a buffet of symptoms. It isn't to be confused with a marinade. 

The FDA called the Nyqil chicken challenge "silly and unappetizing," then laid out exactly why it's a bad idea. "Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways," the FDA 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. It could also hurt your lungs."

TikTok has condemned the Nyquil videos. Procter & Gamble, maker of Nyquil, didn't respond to a request for comment.

One user remixed a video showing a person cooking chicken on a stove top and pouring the green contents of a Nyquil bottle on it. TikTok placed a warning at the bottom saying, "Participating in this activity could result in you or others getting hurt."

"Content that promotes dangerous behavior has no place on TikTok. This is not trending on our platform, but we will remove content if found and strongly discourage anyone from engaging in behavior that may be harmful to themselves or others," a TikTok spokesperson told CNET.

Searching "Nyquil chicken" on TikTok generates a link to a guide on assessing online challenges that asks users to stop and think about what they've seen and to report challenges that maybe harmful.

The origin of the Nyquil chicken recipe is unclear, as is the purpose. The site Know Your Meme, which tracks online trends, suggests it first appeared back in 2017 and has also been called Sleepy Chicken.

Though many social media trends are harmless fun, there have been dangerous trends before, as with the social media-spread "blackout challenge," which encouraged people to choke themselves and is suspected of causing the deaths of two children.

In response to the Nyquil-basted chicken, the FDA offered guidance for parents, including more general advice to keep medications away from children and to openly discuss the dangers of drugs and social media trends. 

One more time for anyone in the back: Don't cook with Nyquil.