Business is booming.

Experts warn melatonin use in America is 'out of control'

Continued long-term use of strong melatonin can lead to an unknown range of serious health problems, including severe cognitive decline and psychiatric problems, experts warn.

More than two percent of American adults now use melatonin regularly, a fivefold increase in the past 20 years. The sleep aid hasn’t been used on a massive scale long enough to study its effects in real life, but the NIH has said it fears long-term use could cause cognitive damage such as dementia.

In a new report published in the journal JAMAsleep and psychiatric experts warned that Americans who “self-medicate” at high doses over a long period of time put themselves at risk for short-term side effects, including fatigue, dizziness and headaches — and more serious long-term health consequences. term, especially if taken in combination with other medications.

Many of those who take melatonin regularly consume it in doses higher than the maximum recommended five milligrams per night and do so regularly.

Doctors named in the JAMA report describe the unregulated spike in the over-the-counter sleep supplement as “a crazy situation that got out of hand.”

While melatonin can be safely used occasionally, like any sleep aid, doctors don't recommend taking it every night for sleep (file photo)

While melatonin can be safely used occasionally, like any sleep aid, doctors don’t recommend taking it every night for sleep (file photo)

Unlike most other countries, in the US melatonin is not regulated by the FDA and can be purchased online and in pharmacies without a prescription. It is marketed as a natural and safe supplement to aid sleep. Its popularity is so great that data from statistic shows that sales are up 142 percent from $339 million in 2017 to $821 million in 2020.

The doctors also warn of increased use among children, and officials have reported a spate of calls to poison helplines from parents whose children were consuming too much at once.

A CDC report released in early 2022 revealed that in the decade to 2021, poison helplines handled 260,435 calls about children taking too much melatonin — a 530 percent increase. Of these, two died, five were given a ventilator, nearly 300 ended up in intensive care and more than 4,000 were hospitalized.

Sleep experts say many people taking the drug suffer from it.

‘They end up on my sidewalk in a sleep clinic because [melatonin] is not the magic bullet,” said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Unlike many other countries, in the US melatonin is distributed over the counter rather than by prescription. It is also marketed as a more natural sleep aid because it uses an active ingredient that the human body already produces.

Experts warn that many Americans are taking more than the recommended maximum of 5 mg of melatonin per day - and that this can lead to significant cognitive problems over time.  Pictured: An over-the-counter melatonin product at a dosage of 12 mg

Experts warn that many Americans are taking more than the recommended maximum of 5 mg of melatonin per day - and that this can lead to significant cognitive problems over time.  Pictured: An over-the-counter melatonin product at a dosage of 12 mg

Experts warn that many Americans are taking more than the recommended maximum of 5 mg of melatonin per day – and that this can lead to significant cognitive problems over time. Pictured: An over-the-counter melatonin product at a dosage of 12 mg

This has led many to believe that it is safe to use without considering the long-term consequences of overuse – unlike other prescription drugs such as Tylenol, where a person can understand the limits of how much it should be taken.

‘It’s a bit alarming; just because the product is available over the counter doesn’t mean it’s totally harmless and doesn’t have significant physiological effects,” Dr. Naima Covassin of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota at JAMA.

Little is known about the long-term effects of melatonin supplements. They are relatively new to the market and their widespread use was only very recently applied in much of the world.

As a result, its general effects are unknown. However, if there are long-term problems associated with it, the world will find out in a big way.

The National Institutes of Health, along with others, have linked the drug to dementia and a slightly shorter lifespan, though there’s no conclusive research to prove the case.

There is also data on other sleeping pills showing that overuse or abuse of them later in life can lead to significant cognitive decline or psychiatric problems.

Researchers in a Mayo Clinic study published in March wrote that anyone taking the drug now is actually participating is a huge study.

“The increasing use of exogenous melatonin in the general population and its growing therapeutic potential provide impetus for obtaining robust evidence for the long-term safety of melatonin supplementation,” they wrote.

Even people who think they are taking safe amounts of the drug could be misinformed.

Since the drug is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, doses may be higher than advertised, meaning someone may be taking more of the drug than thought.

WHAT IS MELATONIN?

Melatonin is a hormone that determines how sleeping or awake people feel.

The hormone is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and its release in the body is controlled by light.

During the day, when the eye absorbs light, melatonin levels in the body are low, making us feel awake.

But when it gets dark and the amount of light absorbed by the eye decreases (although this is disrupted by artificial light in modern societies), more melatonin circulates around the body.

Melatonin prepares the body for sleep by slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and changing the way heat is stored in the body – the core body temperature drops while the outside of the body and extremities heat up.

The hormone also makes people sleepy.

Melatonin supplements can be taken to help sleep in people who have problems with it, as well as for certain medical conditions such as tinnitus or Alzheimer’s disease.

sources: Medical news today and Journal of Applied Physics

“These estimates may raise safety concerns, especially given that the actual melatonin content in marketed supplements may be up to 478 percent higher than the labeled content and that the evidence supporting melatonin use for sleep disorders is weak,” the researchers wrote. the Mayo Clinic.

Because of these fears, no sleep aids are recommended for long-term use without trying other sleep therapies first.

“There are no drugs recommended for long-term use for insomnia in children or adults,” Dr. Jennifer Martin, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told JAMA.

“We always try non-drug approaches first, and that works for most people.”

Many people understand the risks of sleeping pills, and it even pushed them toward the melatonin considered safe, experts note.

Another big fear is that kids will get their hands on them and use them unsafely in ways that will make them sick.

Since many melatonin supplements are gummies, a child may mistakenly think they are candies and eat a large amount of them.

The experts told JAMA that many parents who want their child to take melatonin also say it is candy. While that may make bedtime a little worrying, experts warn it could give their child a dangerous misconception about melatonin.

“As with any drug, don’t leave it on the counter for your toddler to get in,” Owens said.

There are also concerns that one may become tired the next day. If a person took too much of a dose the previous night and doesn’t get enough sleep, they will likely be even more tired in the morning.

However, the drug is not completely useless. Experts say they’re great in situations where a person needs to quickly adjust their sleep schedule — like resolving jet lag after a trip.

It can also be used as an occasional sleep aid for a person who is afraid of missing important sleep on a particular night.

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