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Melatonin Vape Pens: Are They Safe?

Over the past several years, the emerging technology of vape pens of a method of rapid drug administration has gained tremendous popularity. The most well-known type of this product are vape pens that administer nicotine, also called e-cigarettes, manufactured by popular brands like Juul and marketed as tools to replace cigarettes or help people reduce their nicotine addiction. While these apparent good intentions are admirable, the reality of e-cigarette proliferation has had negative health consequences in the United States: the popularity of these products has exploded, particularly among young people who use them recreationally instead of as a smoking cessation tool; the quantity of nicotine one can inhale with a vape pen is nearly unlimited, making the effects of nicotine dependency more pronounced compared to cigarettes; and recently, a string of vaping-related hospitalizations in the United States has led to concerns that vape products are not nearly as safe as their marketing would have you believe.

Nicotine, of course, is not the only drug that can be administered via battery-powered vapor devices. In states where the drug is legal, THC cartridges have been manufactured as an alternative to smoking marijuana, with users reporting a pronounced effect from the products relative to traditional smoking methods. The concerns associated with these products are similar to those associated with e-cigarettes, as the long-term health effects of inhaling vapor are not yet well understood and this style of administration makes high doses likely. Nevertheless, there’s no end in sight for the rise in popularity of vape pens, and businesses have started experimenting with products that deliver other substances.

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Perhaps the most well-known such business is Cloudy, who promotes their product heavily on Instagram and other social media platforms. Cloudy manufactures a disposable melatonin and essential oil personal diffuser, which they sell for $20 each and which promises to deliver a near-instant sense of sleepiness and relaxation. The device’s primary active ingredient, Melatonin, is a hormone that regulates the human sleep-wake cycle and has long been used to treat difficulty sleeping. While it is categorized by the FDA as a dietary supplement, not a medication, other countries such as the UK prohibit sale of the supplement without a prescription. When taken as a supplement, the hormone presents very few side effects, and it is generally considered safe to take low doses of melatonin even for periods of time lasting 12 months, although long-term reliance for sleep is not recommended.

As melatonin supplements are usually ingested orally and processed by the body’s digestive system, it usually takes between thirty minutes and an hour to feel the effects of the hormone. The main selling point of Cloudy’s personal diffuser is that the effects of Melatonin, when inhaled, can be felt nearly instantly, leaving users feeling ready to fall asleep within minutes. As such, the company claims that inhaling melatonin is superior to using orally-administered supplements, which they state can have inconsistent effects depending on how much food a person has eaten recently among other factors.

Cloudy also asserts that their product is a totally safe aromatherapy device, as it does not contain any of the artificial flavorings or drugs found in other vape products, instead relying on all-natural and vegan ingredients including lavender and chamomile, which are known to produce an effect of relaxation.

Within the past year, the CDC has reported that some of the ingredients present in nicotine and THC vaping products, such as Vitamin E Acetate,  caused thousands of individuals to experience lung collapse and other respiratory issues, however, those ingredients aren’t found in Cloudy’s products. In fact, the company’s website provides research that has been conducted about the effects of its ingredients, many of which have been thoroughly studied and not been found to produce harmful effects. And user reviews of the product seem to be overwhelmingly positive, lauding the diffuser as safe and effective, if the ones presented on the product’s website are to be trusted.

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Despite these promising indicators, there is of course reason to be concerned about these types of devices on the market. For one, while the effects of melatonin are fairly well-understood in the scientific community, the rapid route of administration via vapor has not been as thoroughly studied. Concern also exists regarding the long-term health consequences of reliance on a device that puts you to sleep within minutes. 

As such, I’d recommend caution when considering purchasing a melatonin diffuser. It’s important to note that, as they do not contain any ingredients which are classified as drugs by the FDA, these personal diffusers are largely unregulated and claims of the product’s efficiency are not held to the same legal standard of accountability as those of prescription drug manufacturers. Before starting any supplement, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. While it’s not legally required to have this conversation, your doctor can give you the well-informed perspective of a medical professional and can also take your individual health concerns into consideration, as supplements can have interactions with various prescription drugs and particular medical conditions. Nevertheless, while this category of product is new and untested, it does show promise as a medical device, particularly for those who have difficulty sleeping which is not treated well by traditional therapies and substances.