They are not tranquilizers or mood elevators. (Representational Image/ By Arrangement)
Khloe Kardashian recently discussed how social media scrutiny caused her anxiety and how beta-blockers help calm her nerves. She is not the only one using Propranolol (Inderal), Metoprolol (Lopressor) and other prescription drugs to help with anxiety and stage fright. Beta-blockers seems to be the in-thing for celebrities looking to quiet their thumping hearts or dampen dry mouths and several celebrities like Katy Pary and Blair Tindall use them before concerts.
Grammy-nominated classical musician Blair Tindall, in her best-selling book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, describes feeling paralyzed with performance anxiety until she discovered Propranolol, a beta-blocker with a reputation of preventing anxiety symptoms. "Beta-blockers are not recreational drugs. They do not affect cognitive abilities, but instead block adrenaline-like chemicals in the human system. For a violinist, this means performance can feel like practice, with no bouncing bow or slippery fingers," wrote Tindall.
Do beta-blockers really work?
"Stress and anxiety cause several physical responses in the body. Some of these responses are mediated by a hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline mediates what is called the flight and fright response in reaction to danger or perceived danger," says Dr V. Rajashekhar, Senior Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist, Yashoda Hospitals.
Dr V. Rajashekhar, Senior Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist, Yashoda Hospitals.
They are not tranquilizers or mood elevators. There is no ‘high’ or drowsiness. They are not habit-forming.
But are we using them more and more as a crutch?
"Beta-blockers were not created to reduce anxiety but are often prescribed ‘off-label’ for the purpose. They can reduce the heart rate. When anxious, our heart rate elevates. This elevation gives the brain feedback that our body is panicking and reinforces anxiety. If you inhibit the ability to raise your heart rate quickly, the feedback to the brain will be that there is not as much panic as expected. If our heart and body are calm, the feedback to the brain is calming. This reduces anxiety. So they are best suited for short-term, stimulus-related anxiety such as bad dreams and stage fear. They do not address the emotional and psychological aspects of anxiety," explains Dr Syed Akram Ali, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals.