Bad Idea: Beta-Blockers for Stage Fright

By | March 24, 2006

Bad Idea Beta-Blockers for Stage Fright

Why dull the rush of performing live?

According to a 1987 study of the 51 largest orchestras in the U.S., over one in four classical musicians used beta-blockers. And 70 per cent of those using the drug got their prescription illicitly. … For decades now, nervous musicians have quietly taken beta-blocking drugs, more commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure, to improve their live performance. … Prescription drugs like Inderal, Monitan and Sectral work by blocking receptors for adrenaline, the hormone that increases heart rates in times of fear and panic. When adrenaline is impeded, blood pumps more slowly…. Doctors will prescribe beta-blockers to relieve musicians? anxiety, Ho said, but only in much lower doses than for people with high blood pressure. … ?It?s a poison that has to be dealt with by your body.? The main side effects of beta-blockers are dizziness and drowsiness.

?It?s usually not a problem for people who are taking the drugs regularly for hypertension or migraines,? said pharmacist Ho, ?but when someone is only taking the drug once a week, like musicians, the side effects are more severe.? Because beta-blockers get in the way of adrenaline, they can cause serious problems for people with allergies or asthma. Without adrenaline as the body?s natural defence, allergic reactions can quickly progress to acute shock, or even death.

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