When you’re facing a particularly stressful situation such as a huge presentation or an important job interview, it can be tempting to reach for a drink to help calm your nerves.
But what if you’ve already prepped for your big moment with a beta-blocker?
Generally speaking, doctors will advise against drinking alcohol while taking beta-blockers. Here’s a quick rundown of why.
How do beta-blockers and alcohol interact?
Beta-blockers work by blocking the physical effects of norepinephrine (adrenaline).
Practically, that means that beta-blockers help your heart beat slower. Some also help your blood vessels open up, which increases blood flow.
A single alcoholic drink can lower blood pressure by making blood vessels larger. It also acts as a blood thinner, preventing blood cells from sticking together.
People who combine beta-blockers and alcohol may find they experience headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, change in heart rate, or even fainting.
Additionally, increasing the number of alcoholic drinks can even reduce the effects of beta-blockers on the body.
In fact, two or more alcoholic drinks can:
- Increase levels of norepinephrine
- Elevate your heart rate
- Increase the amount of blood the heart pumps out
If you take beta-blockers for performance anxiety, increased norepinephrine and an elevated heart rate are exactly the symptoms you’re trying to avoid in the first place. And for those who are relying on beta-blockers to reduce their risk of heart attack or to treat arrhythmia, those effects can be downright dangerous.
Please be sure to consult with your doctor first if you plan on taking beta-blockers and drinking alcohol at any point.
Does dosage matter for mixing beta-blockers and alcohol?
Dosage does make a difference in alcohol’s combination with beta-blockers. Beta-blockers like propranolol metabolize quickly. Therefore, the longer you wait between taking beta-blockers and drinking alcohol, the lower the chances of overlap.
A low dosage of beta-blockers (like the 10mg dosage generally prescribed for performance anxiety), will:
- Leave the system more quickly
- Lower the risk of side effects
If you plan on drinking, you should absolutely speak with your doctor about the potential risks and side effects of mixing beta-blockers and alcohol.
Start an online visit today with one of our board-certified doctors to learn more about beta-blockers and whether or not they’re the right option for you.
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.