Can You Overdose on Melatonin? Symptoms of Overdose & Treatment
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. . Melatonin is used in dietary supplements. Melatonin dietary supplements may be an effective and safe treatment of chronic insomnia, sleep anxiety, and insomnia caused by jet lag or shift work. There are cases where individuals use alcohol to self-medicate from insomnia, and they sometimes combine melatonin and alcohol.
Melatonin plays a major role in maintaining your sleep cycle. Your body produces most of it in the hours after the sun goes down. Most of it is made especially between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. Research suggests that these hormones play other important roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood. Melatonin dietary supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms, but most often, they’re made synthetically.
People with sleep disorders sometimes use alcohol to self-medicate. Studies have found that approximately 30% of people with ongoing insomnia have used alcohol within the past year as a sleep aid. Insomnia and alcohol abuse are strongly connected; estimates of insomnia in people with alcohol dependency range from 36% to 67%. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals suffering from sleep disorders to combine melatonin and alcohol. Another drug used for the treatment of insomnia is Ambien which is also often combined with alcohol. Whether you combine Ambien and alcohol accidentally or intentionally, you may develop a series of dangerous physical symptoms that can be life-threatening.
Why People Take Artificial Melatonin
Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, and anxiety before and after surgery.
- Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems. Research suggests that these dietary supplements may help with jet lag.
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)
- People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Melatonin supplements appear to help with sleep in people with DSWPD, but it’s uncertain whether the benefits outweigh the possible harms.
Anxiety before and after surgery
- Anxiety before and after surgery happens in up to 80 percent of patients. Melatonin supplements appear to be helpful in reducing anxiety before surgery, but it’s unclear if it helps to lower anxiety after surgery.
- This is the highest dose that is typically used for treating sleep-related conditions and hasn’t been associated with toxicity. 10mg was the dose used in one study to handle circadian rhythm disorders in people who are blind. The study concluded that this high dose should always be supervised by a physician.
- The 30 mg dosage is substantial. Some studies have used doses of 20-40 mg to prevent and treat clot-forming cells (thrombocytopenia) associated with cancer chemotherapy.
- This is a serious dosage, and it shouldn’t be used at all. With this in mind, it’s important to note that this would result in a lot of unwanted effects which could be potentially very harmful.
How Much Melatonin is Safe to Take?
Melatonin is available to purchase in any quantity, without a prescription in the U.S. However, there is currently no formal consensus on the optimal dosing regimen for this supplement. Studies frequently use doses ranging from 0.1 to 10 milligrams, but 2 to 3 milligrams is often considered an appropriate amount to start.
There are many challenges to determining the appropriate amount of melatonin for any one person to take. Individual responses to this supplement can vary considerably due to factors that are not fully understood but can include age, gender, specific sleep issues, other health conditions, and timing of administration.
In addition, not all melatonin supplements are created equal. Differences in preparation can significantly alter its impact. Depending on the formulation, taking 1 to 10 milligrams of melatonin can raise the body’s melatonin blood levels anywhere from 3 to 60 times the normal amount.
A random sampling of 31 brands of these dietary supplements determined that most did not contain the labeled dose, with the actual amount ranging anywhere from less than 80% to nearly 500% as much. Additionally, over one-quarter of the supplements contained serotonin. Consumers should look for products labeled United States Pharmacopeial Convention Verified for the most reliable formulation.
Despite the lack of data and variability around dosing regimens, with typical use, this dietary supplement is largely considered safe and is generally well-tolerated in healthy adults. The risk of side effects is low but can include mild headache, dizziness, nausea, and sleepiness.
Studies show serious adverse effects and toxicity of melatonin is relatively rare. However, more long-term human research needs to be conducted to conclusively prove this. What this means, is that it’s relatively safe to use melatonin daily. However, it’s advisable to only do this for a short period.
While no current research points at the toxicity of using melatonin long-term, you can have side effects when you take it at too high a dose. Most doctors recommend a dosage of 1 to 3 milligrams (mg). In some people, an overdose of melatonin may cause excessive sleepiness while in others it might produce the opposite of the desired effect and trigger over alertness.
Melatonin Side Effects
- Drowsiness is undoubtedly amongst the most visible and common side effects when it comes to overdoing it with your supplementation. The idea is that if you take this supplement at the wrong time of the day, you are likely to start feeling drowsy.
- When you’re taking a hormone – hormonal changes are bound to happen. However, this could be far more serious than you think. For instance, pregnant women are not advised to take this dietary supplement as not enough research has been done to know if it is safe during pregnancy.
- Another widespread consequence of taking a little bit too much of this supplement is a severe headache in the morning. Some research has found that these dietary supplements may help to prevent headaches and migraines. However, keep in mind that this hormone is produced in your brain and as such, taking more than what’s needed could lead to chemical imbalances and quickly spiral into the very thing you’re looking to prevent — headaches.
- Dizziness could be another unpleasant side effect of taking too much melatonin. It could also be triggered by an allergic reaction to the supplement. Either way, dizziness is something quite unpleasant and is capable of severely disrupting your functioning.
- If you take a higher dose than what’s necessary, you could experience delusions, paranoia, confusion, or hallucinations. Because this hormone is closely tied to other neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior, higher doses could lead to chemical imbalances and these unpleasant symptoms.
- This is undoubtedly one of the most common side effects of melatonin, regardless of whether you take it in a regular amount or you overdose it. You may easily experience stomach issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. These are quite unpleasant, and this is something that you don’t want to deal with.
Anxiety & Depression
- Anxiety and depression are commonly associated with hormonal imbalances and could be induced by taking higher doses of this dietary supplement. If you start experiencing any mental health changes after taking this diet, speak to your doctor immediately.
Can You Overdose on Melatonin?
When it comes to the question concerning whether or not you can overdose on melatonin, the answer is yes and no. There has never been a case reported of anyone dying from too much melatonin, or even becoming seriously ill, so no, you cannot really overdose in the fatal sense.
On the other hand, you can certainly take too much melatonin, which can produce adverse side effects you likely want to avoid. If you are worried about whether or not you have taken too much, take a look at the warning signs and symptoms of taking larger doses of melatonin than recommended and adjust your intake accordingly.
Taking too much of this dietary supplement can have a wide range of harmful effects. Overdoses can lower the sperm count and libido of men, and affect estrogen and progesterone hormone levels in women. Some also suggest that melatonin can affect ovulation and menstrual cycles for women as well.
Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose
While overuse of this drug might not cause death, it can cause a few of the below symptoms:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Low body temperature
- Worsening of alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder causing hair loss)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Treating an Overdose and Addiction to Melatonin and Alcohol
Alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in America, as more than 17 million people in the United States are considered to suffer from addiction to alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), publishes that over 1.5 million American adults were considered to be currently abusing a prescription drug.
There is a strong link between mental health and alcohol abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. To determine the most effective ways to alcohol addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.
Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.
Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.
Psychotherapy for Depression and Anxiety
Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.”
- Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
- Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.
Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.
Individual and Group Counseling
Addiction and mental health counseling occur in both individual and group settings. One-on-one treatment sessions may address unresolved trauma, unconscious conflicts, and specific struggles, while group sessions often involve training in life skills, stress management, conflict resolution, and social connections. Group counseling also gives clients the chance to share their thoughts and experiences to develop social support, which is essential for lasting recovery.
Now that we’ve answered the question “can you overdose on melatonin?”, it’s also important to ask yourself if you are combining it with other substances like alcohol. For alcohol and insomnia, dual diagnosis is generally recommended. In this approach, both Alcohol and the effects of alcohol on sleep are treated aggressively and concurrently. If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.
 NIH – https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know