Could a Drug Take Away Approach Anxiety?

by Eric Disco
Mar 14

A commenter in the last post linked an article about a drug called Propranolol:

Propranolol Permanently Reduces Human Fear Response.

Is it possible a drug could take away approach anxiety?

Propranolol has been around for quite some time. It is in a classification of drugs known as “beta blockers.”

Primarily it is used to treat high blood-pressure and works by blocking adrenaline release.

For years, musicians who perform under high-stress situations would sometimes get prescribed the drug, although it is not technically legal in the US for this purpose.

It looks promising due to the fact that it affects the body rather than the mind unlike current anti-anxiety or anti-depressants.

Instead of altering your brain chemistry, it stops the physical symptoms of fear, such as heart racing, sweaty palms, etc.

It doesn’t take away the fear per se, but tricks you into thinking you aren’t afraid because of the lack of physical reaction.

I have also been following another interesting drug for a while called D-Cycloserine, an antibiotic originally prescribed for Tuberculosis which seems to alleviate social anxiety. (See Nasal Spray Helps People Fight Their Fears.)

Do I recommend trying something like this?

I am not totally against trying this, but there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, there is a tendency to look for the magic bullet.

We all want that magic bullet.

Reading articles like this get me excited and make me think that maybe there is a medical solution to the fact that my body gets so aroused in social situations.

If you were to take the drug, you would need to use it in conjunction with a program that would allow for desensitization in the real world. You wouldn’t simply take a pill and be done with it.

There is no way around honest effort, getting outside of your comfort zone and figuring things out for yourself. As they say–pills don’t build skills.

And then there is also the confidence issue.

When I was writing my book, I was tempted to try Ritalin. I read that many college students use it to help them focus.

I thought maybe it would help me get the book done in a much shorter time with a lot more efficiency.

But for me, part of the joy of writing a book is having written a book.

I did it.

I can look back and know that I wrote a book.

If I had taken drugs to help me do it, I would not have the confidence that I could write a book.

Of course, there are all different levels of the devil’s company when it comes to drugs and enhancement.

What if I had migraines and had to take an anti-migraine medication?

What if I were depressed and needed to take anti-depressants?

Would that mean I didn’t write the book on my own?

One of my favorite books, Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream, is about the use of medicine as lifestyle enhancement versus treating diseases.

It even has a chapter about Beta Blockers.

I won’t attempt to solve this ethical dilemma here, but I would caution about looking at any medication as a something that could give you confidence.

Every medication in the past that seemed like a wonder drug tended to distance people from their own feelings.

If those feelings are too overwhelming, than yes, drugs may be necessary.

But in the long run, what you are trying to do is feel more of what you’re feeling, rather than feel less.

In the end, it will be about having experiences and learning how to manage the feelings that result from taking that initiative.

If you still want to read more, here are some sites to check out about Beta Blockers:

Beta blockers; their use and abuse for combating performance nerves

Acute effects of beta blockade and exercise on mood and anxiety

Treating PTSD with Beta-Blockers

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posted in Acceptance

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