When counting sheep isn’t enough
Q: I have been having trouble sleeping. I was thinking about trying a drug called Rozerem since its FDA approved. Does this mean it’s safer than melatonin?
Dr. Wright: Rozerem’s manufacturer describes it as “a melatonin receptor agonist.” In plain English, that means that Rozerem activates the same receptors that melatonin does. But just because it activates the same receptors as melatonin and has the so-called “advantage” of being “approved” by the FDA doesn’t mean Rozerem is completely safe.
In very high doses, it can cause liver cancer and fetal deformities in lab animals. It’s true that the doses required to cause these problems are substantially higher on a per-pound basis than those recommended for humans. But in contrast, natural melatonin, even at very high doses, has the opposite effect — it actually protects against cancer.
Less serious side effects of Rozerem in human trials included fatigue (4 percent as opposed to 2 percent for the placebo group); dizziness (5 percent as opposed to 3 percent for the placebo group); nausea, insomnia, and upper respiratory infection (all 3 percent as opposed to 2 percent); and muscle pain, depression, taste dysfunction, and joint pain (all 2 percent as opposed to 1 percent).
No doubt a patent medication company spokesperson would point out that these side effects are minimal as compared with those of other approved patent medications. And they are.
But by taking Rozerem, you’re exposing yourself unnecessarily to potential side effects, however minimal, that can be avoided by using Nature’s original version. Plus, by taking Rozerem instead of melatonin, not only are you exposing yourself to potential risks, but you’re also missing out on the other health benefits of melatonin, including proven cancer risk reduction.
Even if the potential side effects don’t concern you, on a broader scale, Rozerem just helps perpetuate the system that allows twisted, misshapen versions of natural molecules to be widely advertised as effective and at the same time threatens jail time for those who tell the truth about the superior effectiveness of the original, natural versions. So, as you can see, it’s a whole lot less risky — in more ways than one — just to take the natural molecule itself.
If you have trouble sleeping, it’s perfectly safe to take 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin to help the process along naturally. You can get melatonin at your local natural food store for one-tenth the price of Rozerem.