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Melatonin and Alcohol

Melatonin and AlcoholInteraction, Side Effects, Complications, & 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. [1]. 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.

Melatonin and Alcohol
Let’s take a look at the way this interaction between melatonin and alcohol affects you negatively

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.

Can You Mix Melatonin and Alcohol?

People frequently wonder if melatonin and alcohol affect each other. You shouldn’t take melatonin and alcohol together for a few reasons. First, if you combine melatonin and alcohol, negative side effects may happen. These can include extreme dizziness, drowsiness, and increased anxiety. It may also make you more likely to experience raised blood pressure.

The risks of melatonin and alcohol are even more significant with pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, which may affect the baby. Combining melatonin, alcohol, and breastfeeding doesn’t mix well. There’s no level of alcohol in breast milk that’s considered safe for a baby to drink

Individuals with other health conditions such as bleeding disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure are at significant risk of melatonin alcohol interaction. One reason for hypoglycemia with alcohol and diabetes type 2 is that alcohol can interfere with some diabetes medications

Please note that alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, no matter the amount consumed. This is based on a number of unique factors, such as genetics, age, and other health conditions you have. Individuals taking the following over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs are at higher risk for problems when combined with melatonin and alcohol.

Melatonin and Alcohol
Taking melatonin with alcohol is far from safe and responsible.

Alcohol is a blood thinner. If you take blood thinner medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin), alcohol stops your body from properly digesting the medication and could lead to serious bleeding, such as stomach bleeding or a brain bleed. Since both alcohol and anticoagulant drugs reduce the clotting ability of the blood, consuming them together can magnify their effects and increase your risk of stroke. A small study also suggested melatonin could have a similar effect on blood thinners.

If you have sleep anxiety and use melatonin to help you sleep, consuming alcohol and anxiety medications, such as alprazolam (Xanax), can be dangerous to mix with alcohol because the combination can cause life-threatening drowsiness or trouble breathing. If you take other OTC sleep aids, such as valerian root, diphenhydramine (Zzzquil), or doxylamine (Unisom), you should avoid both melatonin and alcohol. This combination can lead to more severe drowsiness and a higher risk for accidental injuries.

Melatonin and Alcohol Interaction Side Effects

  • Breathing Difficulties – drinking alcohol while taking melatonin supplements can cause the muscles in the throat to lose their tightness and functionality, making them work against you.
  • Heart Rate and Cardiac Function Issues – the combination of melatonin and alcohol can have significant effects when it comes to heart rate and cardiac function.
  • Sleeping Troubles – even though melatonin is supposed to help you fall and stay asleep, its interaction with alcohol can have the opposite effect. 
  • Other Symptoms – alongside the previous main symptoms, people who mix melatonin and alcohol can also experience drowsiness, dizziness, increased blood pressure, and increased anxiety.

Melatonin and Alcohol Interaction Complications

Beyond the main symptoms, the combination of melatonin and alcohol can cause some severe complications. One of the main reasons the complications occur is because both affect the liver’s ability to function and create essential enzymes. Here’s what else can happen;

  • Redness and rashing in the face
  • Swelling of hands, ankles, and feet
  • Increased irritability and anxiety levels
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Risk of falling
  • Sudden unconsciousness or passing out
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Feeling cold and experiencing shivers
  • Difficulty focusing, thinking, or concentrating
  • Nightmares and vivid dreams
  • Headache and nausea

How Much Melatonin is Too Much?

A safe dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that’s effective in helping you fall asleep without causing side effects. In general, a dose between 0.2 and 5 mg is considered a safe starting dose. Can you overdose on melatonin? Yes, you can technically overdose on melatonin. However, a melatonin overdose can be hard to define since there isn’t an official standard safe dosage for everyone.

Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of melatonin. A dose that might trigger side effects in one person may have little effect on someone else. In adults, the standard dose used in studies ranges between 1 and 10 mg, although there isn’t currently a definitive “best” dosage. It’s believed doses in the 30-mg range may be harmful.

Melatonin and Alcohol Death 

Melatonin and alcohol death is quite rare, and even if it should occur, it would most likely be from underlying conditions or the sheer amount of ethanol taken. The pineal hormone reproduced in over-the-counter melatonin is relatively safe and is not lethal, even in extremely high doses. However, there will be negative health consequences.

Firstly and most importantly, one needs to understand that each melatonin brand has specific instructions for usage, and these instructions should be taken as the rule for the amounts of the drug that should be taken at any given time. At the same time, it is still important to consult a qualified healthcare professional before using the drug to make sure that one has no health issues that may interact with melatonin.

Alcohol and Insomnia

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as many as 50 percent of adults in the U.S. experience insomnia symptoms (trouble sleeping). It was estimated that nearly 9 million U.S. adults took prescription medications to help them sleep every night. Poor sleep can raise the risk of developing other health conditions, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity.

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.

melatonin and alcohol
Although melatonin supplements are considered “natural,” this does not necessarily mean they are harmless.

Because of its sedative effects, alcohol has been consumed by many individuals looking for something to help them get to sleep. However, alcohol has been shown to lower the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep — the deepest stage of sleep — you experience and can cause disturbances throughout the night. This means the quality of the sleep you get is poor, even if alcohol seems to make you fall asleep easier, and you are likely to feel sleepy the following day.

Consuming alcohol regularly to help with insomnia can lead to a self-medicating cycle: using a depressant like alcohol to fall asleep and stimulants like caffeine to stay awake during the day. This throws your body off balance and can lead you to grow reliant on these substances.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Polysubstance Problems

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.

Mixing insomnia medication such as melatonin and alcohol magnifies the side effects of both and may promote more use of both. A wide variety of options are available to help the person stop taking melatonin and alcohol and avoid serious side effects from polysubstance abuse. Many melatonin users respond well to residential rehab programs. 

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.

Medically-Assisted Detox

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

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. 

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.

Melatonin and Alcohol
If you or someone you know has been affected by melatonin and alcohol misuse, there are resources to help you recover.
Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Melatonin

[2] NIH – https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know