Beta-Blocker FAQ

Are Beta-Blockers Safe?

Beta-blockers are a trusted treatment option by doctors and are a frequently prescribed medication; in fact, in 2015 alone doctors wrote more than 60 million prescriptions for beta-blockers.

This medication works by blocking the effects of epinephrine, or adrenaline, on the body and is often prescribed for chest pain, migraines, high blood pressure, tremors, and performance anxiety.

However, just as with any prescription drug, beta-blockers may not be right for everyone and can carry some risks.

Who shouldn’t take beta-blockers?

While beta-blockers are generally considered to be safe, there are certain people who shouldn’t take them.

For example, doctors don’t typically prescribe them to people who have a history of any of the following:

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Peripheral artery diseases like Raynaud’s syndrome

Similarly, there are some medications that shouldn’t be taken along with beta-blockers.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re taking:

  • Blood pressure drugs like ACE Inhibitors
  • Anesthetics like lidocaine or dobutamine
  • Drugs to increase heart rate and blood pressure like epinephrine or isoproterenol
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs like aspirin or acetaminophen
  • Blood-thinners like warfarin

Regardless of your medical history, you should always speak with a doctor to weigh the benefits and risks of any prescription, including beta-blockers.

What are the side effects of beta-blockers?

All drugs, whether over the counter or prescription, carry some risk of side effects and beta-blockers are no exception.

But overall the side effects of beta-blockers tend to be “annoying, not life-threatening”.

Some common side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Tingling or coldness in hands or feet
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach

These are usually mild and can pass with continued use. Following your doctor’s instructions and taking the correct prescribed dosage can help decrease the likelihood of these side effects.

What should I do if I’m considering taking Propranolol for anxiety?

Propranolol is a prescription medication and cannot be purchased over the counter.

If you think beta-blockers might be a useful option in helping you overcome performance anxiety, you should start by consulting with a doctor.

Be sure to discuss your full medical history as well as any other medications you’re currently taking so you and your doctor can fully weigh the risks and benefits.

Consult with one of our board-certified doctors today to learn if beta-blockers are right for you.

dr. alex dimitriu

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Dimitriu

Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a Stanford-trained physician with dual board certification in psychiatry and sleep medicine. The included content is not intended to replace medical advice. Always be sure to discuss any prescription medications with your doctor.

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