What Are the Effects of Putting Eye Drops in a Drink?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
Eye drops are not made for oral consumption.
Eye drops are not made for oral consumption.

Eye drops are meant to be used directly on the eyes, but they may sometimes be misused and administered with other methods, intentionally or unintentionally. Putting eye drops in a beverage can cause the person who drinks it some severe side effects. The active ingredient in some medical eye drops can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. A severe drop in blood pressure and body temperature could also occur, and a person could even slip into a coma and die.

If a person consumes medicated eye drops in a drink he or she may become very nauseated.
If a person consumes medicated eye drops in a drink he or she may become very nauseated.

One of the most popular urban legends involves eye drops in a drink. The legend states that if a victim ingests just a couple drops of this eye medicine, he will suffer from diarrhea for a few hours. This urban legend has often been popularized by the media, showing up in various movies.

Regular saline eye drops will not typically have any effect on a person, if ingested. Only medical eye drops designed to minimize red eyes will cause problems when they are ingested. These typically contain an active ingredient known as tetrahydrozoline, which helps constrict blood vessels.

The active ingredient in some eye drops could cause coma if ingested.
The active ingredient in some eye drops could cause coma if ingested.

Ingestion of tetrahydrozoline via eye drops in a drink can cause severe nausea, but not usually diarrhea. Vomiting, on the other hand, is common in people who ingest this substance. Blurred vision and tremors can also occur. It usually only takes a couple of drops to cause these symptoms, though larger amounts can cause much more serious problems.

Tetrahydrozoline can also cause other, more serious, problems. The blood pressure of a person who ingests eye drops in a drink can possible rise and drop suddenly. His body temperature may also drop to dangerously low levels. Seizures can also occur, and a person may even slip into a coma. If left untreated, ingesting eye drops may even prove fatal.

People who ingest tetrahydrozoline may experience blurry vision and tremors.
People who ingest tetrahydrozoline may experience blurry vision and tremors.

Putting eye drops in a drink is not just harmless fun. After seeing it on movies or hearing about it through the grape vine, some people have even tried it. Some have given eye drops to friends as a joke, while others have tried to make their enemies uncomfortable.

In the United States, putting eye drops in a person's drink is considered attempted poisoning. This is a serious crime with some serious repercussions. Some defendants may even get jail time for an offense that began as a supposedly harmless prank.

What is the History of the Visine Prank?

Saline eye drops are typically harmless if ingested in small amounts.
Saline eye drops are typically harmless if ingested in small amounts.

Like many of these trends, this began as a prank in movies and television. It is known as the “Visine Prank”, and searching for it online will yield results as far as 2003. After appearing in popular movies like “Wedding Crashers” and TV shows such as “CSI”, it has again gained prominence through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

Because of the way it was portrayed in fiction, many people got the idea that using over-the-counter eye drops was a cheap way to cure their digestive issues. Some even treated family members if they had eye drops, but no laxatives were on hand. 

Dire consequences could come from treating stomach conditions with eye drops containing tetrahydrozoline. Interestingly, diarrhea is believed to be caused by eye drops, but that is not one of the side effects.

What Happens to Your Body When You Ingest Tetrahydrozoline?

Eye Drops that contain tetrahydrozoline reduce redness in the eyes by constricting the blood vessels. The effects are temporary, and it is not recommended to use them for long periods since you can develop a dependency on them.

Over time they become less effective, and stopping them can cause a reverse condition where your eyes are even redder than they were before. Overusing the drops can cause illness, including vomiting and blood pressure changes.

Eye drops are intended to be used solely on the eyes.
Eye drops are intended to be used solely on the eyes.

There are also nasal sprays that contain tetrahydrozoline. They use the same science to help stop a runny nose for a short time. Again, there are many adverse side effects to using these products for too long. And they can also cause dependency, resulting in a difficulty dealing with nasal issues without using the medication.

When someone puts a few drops of tetrahydrozoline into someone’s drink, it can cause blood vessels to constrict in other parts of the body.

Putting eye drops in a drink may adversely affect a person's blood pressure.
Putting eye drops in a drink may adversely affect a person's blood pressure.

Dizziness, unconsciousness, vomiting, low or high blood pressure, and hypothermia are common side effects. And since someone pulls the prank on someone, that someone is probably not going to measure how much they dose them with, it is easy for someone to overdose.

How is a Tetrahydrozoline Overdose Treated?

There is no antidote for tetrahydrozoline. If you know that someone has been poisoned with it or start showing signs of ingestion, you should call poison control immediately. They will probably need to be taken to the emergency room so they can be treated for their symptoms and observed by medical personnel.

They can be given a medicine called activated charcoal that will keep their body from absorbing more of the chemical than they already have. It acts as a filter and helps the chemical move through the body.

After that, all doctors can do is give the victim fluids and treat their symptoms. If their blood pressure is abnormal, they can be treated for that as needed. Anti-nausea medicines will help control vomiting. The fluids help with that as well.

What is the Punishment for Tetrahydrozoline Poisoning?

Someone that knowingly puts eyedrops or some other form of tetrahydrozoline into someone’s drink can be charged with anything from assault to attempted murder. 

In 2020 Lana Sue Clayton of South Carolina was charged with poisoning her husband with the chemical by putting eye drops in his drinks. She continually dosed him for three days to make him uncomfortable after an argument. The amount of medicine he ingested was enough to kill him. Clayton was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In 2013, a home daycare operator in Ontario was accused of poisoning two of the children in their care. They got very ill and had to be taken to a hospital. She was sentenced to 6 years in jail.

Since there is no way to know how serious the reaction is going to be of someone who ingests tetrahydrozoline, a person that pulls these pranks is putting themselves in a difficult situation.

The outcome of the prank could lead to them facing minor charges that may result in fines and some possible jail time. But if the victim dies or has a life-altering reaction, the perpetrator could be facing decades behind bars.

It is a great risk to take just to pull a prank or to get some revenge on someone after a heated argument.

Discussion Comments

Melonlity

What kind of crumb would dump eye drops in someone's drink as a prank? I think the most we ever did to each other in college was dump sugar in a beer when it was unguarded. That was a hoot, but harmless.

Going any further than that seems downright cruel. What the heck is wrong with some people?

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    • Eye drops are not made for oral consumption.
      By: Alexander Raths
      Eye drops are not made for oral consumption.
    • If a person consumes medicated eye drops in a drink he or she may become very nauseated.
      By: Alliance
      If a person consumes medicated eye drops in a drink he or she may become very nauseated.
    • The active ingredient in some eye drops could cause coma if ingested.
      By: Tyler Olson
      The active ingredient in some eye drops could cause coma if ingested.
    • People who ingest tetrahydrozoline may experience blurry vision and tremors.
      By: bellemedia
      People who ingest tetrahydrozoline may experience blurry vision and tremors.
    • Saline eye drops are typically harmless if ingested in small amounts.
      By: design56
      Saline eye drops are typically harmless if ingested in small amounts.
    • Eye drops are intended to be used solely on the eyes.
      By: FotolEdhar
      Eye drops are intended to be used solely on the eyes.
    • Putting eye drops in a drink may adversely affect a person's blood pressure.
      By: Africa Studio
      Putting eye drops in a drink may adversely affect a person's blood pressure.