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How to Take It
5-HTP should not be given to children.
Health care professionals generally recommend 50 mg of 5-HTP taken 1 - 3 times per day. Some studies have used higher doses, but because 5-HTP can be toxic at high doses, you should talk to your health care provider before raising the dose. Your health care provider can help determine the right dose for you.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of your health care provider.
Tryptophan use has been associated with the development of serious conditions, such as liver and brain toxicity, and with eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS), a potentially fatal disorder that affects the skin, blood, muscles, and organs (see "Overview" section). Such reports prompted the FDA to ban the sale of all tryptophan supplements in 1989. As with tryptophan, EMS has been reported in 10 people taking 5-HTP.
Side effects of 5-HTP are generally mild and may include nausea, heartburn, gas, feelings of fullness, and rumbling sensations in some people. At high doses, it is possible that serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body, could develop. Always talk to your health care provider before taking higher-than-recommended doses.
People with high blood pressure or diabetes should talk to their doctor before taking 5-HTP.
If you take antidepressants, you should not take 5-HTP (see "Possible Interactions" sections).
People with liver disease, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding should not take 5-HTP.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use 5-HTP without first talking to your health care provider.
Antidepressants -- People who are taking antidepressant medications should not take 5-HTP without their health care provider's supervision. These medications could combine with 5-HTP to cause serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition involving mental changes, hot flashes, rapidly fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate, and possibly coma. Some antidepressant medications that can interact with 5-HTP include:
- SSRIs: Citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft)
- Tricyclics: Amitriptyline (Elavil), nortryptyline (Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Phenelzine, (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate)
- Nefazodone (Serzone)
Carbidopa -- Taking 5-HTP with carbidopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease, may cause a scleroderma-like illness. Scleroderma is a condition where the skin becomes hard, thick, and inflamed.
Tramadol (Ultram) -- Tramadol, used for pain relief and sometimes prescribed for people with fibromyalgia, may raise serotonin levels too much if taken with 5-HTP. Serotonin syndrome has been reported in some people taking the two together.
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others) -- Taking 5-HTP with dextromethorphan, found in cough syrups, may cause serotonin levels to increase to dangerous levels, a condition called serotonin syndrome.
Meperidine (Demerol) -- Taking 5-HTP with Demerol may cause serotonin levels to increase to dangerous levels, a condition called serotonin syndrome.
Triptans (used to treat migraines) -- 5-HTP can increase the risk of side effects, including serotonin syndrome, when taken with these medications:
- Naratriptan (Amerge)
- Rizatriptan (Maxalt)
- Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- Zolmitriptan (Zomig)
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