Thousands of US kids are overdosing on melatonin gummies, ER study finds

Enlarge / In this photo illustration, melatonin gummies are displayed on April 26, 2023, in Miami, Florida. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

Federal regulators have long decried drug-containing products that appeal to kids—like nicotine-containing e-cigarette products with fruity and dessert-themed flavors or edible cannabis products sold to look exactly like name-brand candies.

But a less-expected candy-like product is sending thousands of kids to emergency departments in the US in recent years: melatonin, particularly in gummy form. According to a new report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of the over-the-counter sleep-aid supplement has skyrocketed in recent years—and so have calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency departments.

Melatonin, a neurohormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, has become very popular for self-managing conditions like sleep disorders and jet lag—even in children. Use of melatonin in adults rose from 0.4 percent in 1999–2000 to 2.1 percent in 2017–2018. But the more people have these tempting, often candy-like supplements in their homes, the more risk that children will get ahold of them unsupervised. Indeed, the rise in use led to a 530 percent increase in poison control center calls and a 420 percent increase in emergency department visits for accidental melatonin ingestion in infants and kids between 2009 and 2020.

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