Brownies on a plate
Two towns in New England are trying to ban melatonin brownies, a dessert made with the hormone that causes sleepiness. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Recent news reports have come out concerning children in New England getting hooked on melatonin brownies. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, the chemical produced in the brain that causes a person to become sleepy, and it is sold as an herbal supplement. The concern is over a manufacturer who makes melatonin-laced desserts.

Ban on sleep hormone laced treats discussed after hospitalizations

The mayors of two towns in Massachusetts are trying to have a product known as Lazy Cakes banned because they think the treats are being irresponsibly marketed to children, according to Reuters. Lazy Cakes are brownies that contain a dose of melatonin, the hormone manufactured by the body that causes drowsiness. A purple cartoon character called Lazy Larry adorns the packaging, making it look like an acceptable treat to give children who are having trouble sleeping. However, the bars may contain more melatonin than children should be given. Reports of hospitalizations and the amount of melatonin in the treats are causing concern. Lazy Cakes contain 8 milligrams of melatonin, nearly 27 times the 0.3 milligrams recommended for children, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Designer downers

Though far removed from the trendy downers of yesteryear like Valium, Vesparax or Quaaludes, melatonin-infused treats and other products are a growing industry. Similar products to Lazy Cakes such as Kush Cakes and Lulla Pies, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, are available in stores like Walgreens and 7-Eleven nationwide. There is also a sleep aid soft drink, called “Drank,” which has melatonin, Valerian root and rose hips. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate these melatonin infused treats because they are marketed as supplements rather than medicine. Adults are recommended to ingest 1 to 3 milligrams at most per day, and 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams is recommended for children. Many of the brownies and other snacks contain 8 milligrams of melatonin, according to the New York Times.

Melatonin naturally occurs

Melatonin, according to WebMD, is produced by the pineal gland, a rice-grain-sized endocrine gland located near the center of the brain. Because it is already made by the body, it is safe for long and short term use. However, there have been “hangover” like symptoms after heavy use. The drug was previously in vogue with travelers as a miracle drug that could get people to sleep on red-eye flights and prevent jet lag, but a new generation of teens who are sleeping less may be turning to melatonin as a way to compensate for a lack of sleep. Many teenagers sleep less than they should, according to NPR, as their hormonal systems are changing and melatonin production may be thrown off. Taking the over-counter the version of the hormone is more attractive to many people because its natural, unlike Ambien or Lunestra. Melatonin is also cheaper.

Sources

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/16/us-brownies-ban-idUSTRE74F7EF20110516

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-lazy-cakes-20110516,0,1321135.story

Seattle Post Intelligencer: http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/2011/05/17/no-officer-theyre-just-melatonin-laced-brownies/

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/us/15lazycakes.html?_r=3&hp

WebMD: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/16/136275658/late-to-bed-early-to-rise-makes-a-teen-sleepy

NPR: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview

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