To thrive, humans must have certain basic needs met. We need food and clean water to survive. We need shelter and physical movement. And we also need sleep.
Sleep is a basic human need which is frequently pushed aside. Sometimes work deadlines require that sleep be postponed. New parents often experience a sleep deficit.
As a result of this constant exhaustion, many people turn to melatonin as a way to regulate sleep cycles. In fact, it’s estimated that 1.3% of Americans use melatonin. But is melatonin addictive? Let’s look at what this supplement is and what it does to your body.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone which naturally occurs in your body. It’s created by the pineal gland, which is a small gland in the center of your brain. The pineal gland’s production of both melatonin and serotonin is critical to optimal health. These hormones help the body to adapt to both day/night (circadian) cycles and seasonal changes.
There are small amounts of melatonin found in certain foods. Cherries contain the hormone. Other foods help to boost the body’s production of melatonin, such as calcium and tryptophan. But in a healthy human being, the body will naturally produce enough melatonin and serotonin to effectively regulate sleep cycles. This is especially true for a person with a healthy diet.
That having been said, melatonin is available in supplement form. It’s available over the counter in both the United States and Canada, and no prescription is required. In other countries, melatonin may require a doctor’s supervision, or it may be unavailable entirely.
In addition to regulating sleep cycles, melatonin has many other applications. The supplement can be used to alleviate migraine headaches, lessen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and ease the pain of endometriosis. This is only a small sampling of the list of ailments melatonin can treat.
So, as melatonin has a wide range of uses, it’s common to ask “is melatonin addictive?” To answer that, we’ll begin by looking at common dosages of melatonin.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you’re using melatonin as a sleep aid. Because melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, it’s very difficult to classify melatonin as addictive. However, it’s very possible to become dependent on the supplement, especially when not monitored by a doctor.
We’re also going to assume that you’re interested in melatonin dosage for an adult, though we’ll talk about kids later. With that in mind, the most commonly prescribed melatonin dosage is between 3 to 5 mg about an hour prior to bedtime. This dosage may be different for older adults. As far as research has determined, this is a safe dose to take, nightly, for up to 6 months.
Melatonin Overdose: Can you Overdose on Melatonin?
So how much is too much? Can you overdose on melatonin? In short, no. Taking too much melatonin will not lead to death as a result of overdose. But you’re not going to feel well, either.
Common symptoms of melatonin overdose include severe stomach cramping, dizziness and severe headache. Someone who has overdosed on melatonin will also experience trouble focusing and daytime drowsiness. Others may feel irritable.
It’s difficult to define a melatonin overdose, because the supplement is not regulated by the FDA. There is no specific set of guidelines which prescribers and users should follow, and the supplement will affect each user differently.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing a melatonin overdose, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Is Melatonin Addictive
So, is melatonin addictive? Well, as a hormone that is naturally occurring, it is unlikely to trigger any addiction symptoms, including withdrawal. There is little to no need to go through a melatonin detox and there is little risk of developing a reliance on it. However, answering the question of is not quite that simple.
After all, the same could be said for drugs like marijuana or for activities like using the internet. They don’t trigger withdrawals, they are technically not addictive, but it is possible to become reliant on them, to use them so much that you don’t feel “normal” without them. This will not trigger physical withdrawals, but it can have a marked effect on your psychology.
As mentioned, there are many uses for the supplement melatonin. Melatonin benefits those with fibromyalgia, heart disease, weak immune systems and potentially those with certain cancers. It can be used to lessen the symptoms of menopause. And, of course, it can help you sleep.
Melatonin can be an effective way for travelers to ease jet lag. The elderly, too, may benefit from melatonin use. As the human body ages, it is less able to produce appropriate amounts of melatonin and serotonin. Taking a melatonin supplement can help to balance sleep cycles in older adults. Melatonin benefits those with Alzheimer’s as well, as a sleep deficiency has been found to increase symptoms of the disease.
Low doses of melatonin can help children. Those who are suffering from ADHD or other disorders may experience melatonin benefits. And children who have significant trouble falling asleep may be prescribed the supplement. In short, when used safely and in moderation, melatonin can be a useful supplement for people of all ages.
Melatonin Side Effect
As you know, herbal and other supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That is to say that the supplements have not undergone studies to examine their efficacy or their side effects. It’s also not known if increased dependency on the supplement can make melatonin addictive.
That fact in itself can be one of the biggest dangers of melatonin. Supplement dosages have not been properly studied. Melatonin side effects have not been properly measured. And safe duration of use hasn’t been documented.
One melatonin side effect which has been suggested is that the continual use of the supplement can deregulate a person’s natural hormone levels. Each hormone produced by the body is regulated by an “equal and opposite” hormone. In the case of melatonin, the overuse of the supplement will cause a lack of communication between parts of your brain. While not inherently lethal, this is certainly a negative melatonin side effect.
Is Melatonin Safe?
So, is melatonin safe? While there’s no substitute for FDA study and approval of a supplement, melatonin is widely known to be a safe supplement. This, of course, implies that a user will follow dosage instructions and consult the assistance of a doctor. It also assumes that use of melatonin will not exceed the recommended duration of about 6 months.
Does Melatonin Make you High?
Several readers have asked if melatonin will make you high. As stated earlier, too much melatonin will make you feel, frankly, horrible. But does melatonin make you high? Is there such thing as recreational melatonin use? Is a high from melatonin addictive?
When taken in high doses, melatonin can produce effects which could loosely be described as a “high” feeling. Users have described a trance-like state, similar to the feeling right before sleep. Relaxation, confusion and disorientation have been reported. And in a few cases, hallucinations and impaired speech have been experienced.
Melatonin for Kids and Melatonin for Dogs
We would like to take a moment to answer your questions about melatonin for kids and melatonin for dogs. We’ve touched on melatonin’s use for kids, but let’s just go over a few points.
To begin, please do not administer any supplement to a child without the express, explicit instruction of a health care provider. To begin, their bodies are small. What may be a safe adult dose can cause great harm to their small systems.
Secondly, kids are susceptible to allergens. There is no guarantee that the supplement that you’re administering to a child won’t cause a histamine reaction. These reactions can cause swelling, seizures, constriction of airways and death.
If you feel that your child suffers from a sleep disorder which may require melatonin for kids, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Do not take diagnosis and medication into your own hands.
Similarly, if you feel that your dog may in some way benefit from melatonin, talk to your vet. Side effects of melatonin in dogs include gastric disorders, itching, confusion and increased heart rate. In rare instances, dogs have experienced fertility complications as a result of melatonin use.
Melatonin and Pregnancy
Melatonin should not be used by women who are potentially pregnant, who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding. The substance is a hormonal supplement, and melatonin use during pregnancy may cause harmful side effects.
Melatonin and Alcohol
In a manner of speaking, if you take melatonin and alcohol together, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. Alcohol will usually cause the melatonin to stop working.
Melatonin and alcohol may prove to increase each other’s depressant effects. This, in turn, will make you very drowsy. Never operate machinery or drive a motor vehicle after ingesting either alcohol or melatonin.
Melatonin and Drugs
Because melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there are no studies which have proven interactions exist between melatonin and other drugs. Always speak to your physician before taking melatonin if you are taking any other medication, including drugs like codeine and benzodiazepines, which can have a sedative and euphoric effect.
Melatonin and Nyquil
As with alcohol, taking melatonin and Nyquil together will increase drowsiness. You may become dizzy or disoriented as a result. Exercise caution when taking melatonin alone or with any other supplement.
So, Do I Need Treatment for Melatonin Addiction?
If you feel as if melatonin is interfering with your health, you may benefit from speaking with a healthcare provider. Treatment for melatonin addiction can be as simple as your physician prescribing another sleep aid.
In cases where you feel as if your melatonin use stems from depression or other psychological impairments, seek the help of a counselor. You and your counselor can discuss alternatives to melatonin use. Together, you and your medical professionals can work to regulate your sleep without the use of melatonin.