Suitability for Using Melatonin


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Melatonin tablets offer people facing or suffering from jet lag a means by which to reset their biological clock and combat the condition. A common affliction affecting anyone travelling across time zones, jet lag can make the first few days of a holiday or business trip uncomfortable and tiresome, and the lack of effective treatments for the condition has been a major burden on travellers worldwide.

Fortunately melatonin has proven to be a fairly effective method of recalibrating our circadian rhythms, a hormonal cycle which lets our body recognise day from night. Melatonin is not available in the UK over the counter as it has yet to be licensed, but it can be offered through a GP as a prescription unlicensed drug.

In this article we look at whether or not you might be suitable or eligible for melatonin treatment. As with any drug there are certain contraindications which need to be borne in mind when considering this option.

Contraindications to Melatonin

Melatonin has been shown to be safe when administered at low doses over a short period of time, however there are a number of instances where the use of this drug is contraindicated.

Children under the age of 13 are not advised to take melatonin for any purpose, including jet lag. During a younger age the body is undergoing a number of changes driven by hormones, important chemical messengers which regulate development. A classic example of a hormone key to childhood development is human growth hormone, a substance responsible for, as you might imagine, the healthy growth and development of the human body. Hormones like these are all regulated through other hormonal action, and melatonin is an important regulatory hormone in a growing body. By introducing artificial melatonin, the natural functions of this important chemical messenger become disrupted, and can ultimately lead to developmental disorders in growing children.

People suffering from autoimmune diseases are advised to avoid melatonin. Autoimmune conditions are diseases wherein the body’s natural defences, widely referred to as the immune system, fail to effectively discriminate ‘self’ cells from invading ‘non-self’ bodies. Ultimately this leads to a situation where the immune system attacks the cells of the body to cause numerous adverse effects.

There is evidence that indicates that using melatonin can exacerbate inflammation in autoimmune sufferers. Inflammation is normally part of the body’s response to infection and injury, and in normal conditions it is a useful feature of our body’s defences. However abnormal inflammation as a consequence of autoimmune conditions can cause unpleasant effects like the painful swelling of joints in arthritis.

People using warfarin are also advised to avoid melatonin. Warfarin is a blood thinning agent sometimes administered to people to reduce the chances of a thrombotic event, where blood vessels are blocked to often serious effect. Warfarin administration reduces the chances of a clot forming, thereby preventing thrombosis and its many effects. When warfarin and melatonin are administered side by side, there is an increased risk of bleeding which is an unfortunate side effect of warfarin treatment.

Epileptics are also advised against the use of melatonin. Melatonin can increase the risk of epileptic seizures, which can be particularly unpleasant and unwanted when travelling.

One of melatonin’s side effects can be sleepiness during the day, and this is an important consideration if you work in a capacity which requires your full attention. Operators of heavy machinery and vehicles will often be advised against the use of melatonin as their alertness and ability to perform their work safely will be adversely affected.

Despite these contraindications the use of melatonin in the treatment of jet lag has shown to be effective in a number of cases. When considering the use of melatonin, it is always advisable that you speak to your doctor about any potential ramifications of using the drug. In the UK melatonin for jet lag therapy is only available via prescription from your doctor, and as this is the case he or she will not recommend or provide a prescription where there is a potential contraindication.


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