From Ryan Beauchamp
Posted January 3, 2007 at 07:29 PM
Has anyone used them? Do they work?
I'm afraid to try them and possibly get addicted and need them before performances and/or auditons.
However, it is well known that bananas contain a chemical similar to medicinal beta blockers, so sometimes when you go backstage you see everyone is gnawing on bananas to calm their nerves. I'd try that rather than the pills. :)
your question is pretty vague and you did not even mention why you want to take them...
but in general, at higher dose, it is for cardiac related issues, but at very low dose, it may help some people with performance anxiety which causes heart to race and the b blockers slow down the race. some people with sweaty palms, chest palpitations, etc may also benefit from it.
b blockers are not known to be addictive, unlike violin playing. if one has an addictive personality, everything looks like bananas.
disagree with this line: "If you are so nervous about performing that you feel the need for that kind of drugs, it indicates that you are not prepared well enough."
I spoke to a friend of mine who is a doctor and asked if they could be addictive or dangerous in any way. She is a very health-conscious person. (For example, she weighs all of her food before she eats it)
She says that the health risks of beta blockers is minimal. In fact she was completely indifferent to them when I mentioned any potential concern.
I certainly wouldn't take the word of some schmo on violinist.com but I don't they are a big problem. It surprised me when my doctor friend told me that, but I'm inclined to go with her opinion.
I've never taken beta blockers and have no intention of ever doing so. Maybe if I have a heart condition and a doctor prescribes them to me, I will. If one can channel one's nervous energy into a performance, I figure you're probably better off.
yet, it is important to draw a distinction between a person who needs medical/pharmaceutical intervention for anxiety and a person who can cope with the condition on his own.
with the exceptions of a few schomos, no one likes to take pills. the argument that one should use one's mind to control anxiety sounds great but is only valid to a point. some can do it while others find it hard and therefore need extra help. a condition that affects the mind should be taken seriously like a condition that affects the body. peace!
I sometimes get incredibly nervous for a performance, to such a point that most of it might be in tune and the notes might be all there, but I lose my sound and my bow control goes south.
I've found the best remedy is being very sure of yourself. This november I had to go play for a teacher, and the whole thing was incredibly intimidating. I was worried I would play horribly for her because I'd be so nervous, especially she made such a legendary live recording of the piece I was about to play. However, I prepared well and to be honest, once I started playing, I wasn't very nervous. It was a bit of a breakthrough for me. There were certainly some fast passages where not all the notes were clearly heard, and I played out of tune to be sure, but I felt better than I'd ever felt.
I have mixed feelings about this, though I have never used them. Some swear by it, some have reported mixed results. Certainly, it may help with some physical things, but it will not solve the problems and nerves between one's two ears. However, if you are convinced they work, that may help that area.
That said, I would not use them without consulting a doctor and under supervision. Correct me if I am wrong (I often am...) but I remember it was orginally designed as a medication for patients who had suffered a heart attack. I know that it is used by surgeons since the side-effect of preventing shaking can be essential in surgeries of great precision as a life depends on it. That said, they are reported to have long term problematic effects.
There was an interesting special on Radio-Canada about their very wide-spread use in the Montreal Symphony last year. Food for thought...
There are good reasons the supply of certain drugs are restricted.
I didn’t think I needed to give exact details about my life and background why the thought of Beta Blockers crossed my mind, since that is a personal situation for me…. Just giving the thought I’m afraid of a possible addiction - similar to diet pills and melatonin or any drugs in particular. I have noticed that I tend to shake and get nervous during performances occasionally. I’ve been playing for about 9 years and just heard about Beta Blockers and I wanted to gather personal experiences, stories, and so on from fellow musicians from around the world… I guess
Kristian – I agree… maybe sometimes I push myself too much with my repertoire to make me nervous… as that goes for any student and/or musician. That’s one of the issues I’m weighing if I ever choose to see my doctor about Beta Blockers and if I really need them.
I’m really afraid of a dependency. E.g. I have a huge solo performance and I’m preparing myself to perform on the day of the performance… and I realize my bottle of Beta Blockers is empty and I go off and become berserk and have a withdraw symptoms and sacrifice my dependency of the medication for my performance.
Pieter – Your statement made me laugh, “If you want to be a performer, you have to learn to deal with it. It's been tempting for me to use them, many times in the past but I resist.” When I first thought of what Beta Blockers were a few months ago, the concept, and what they do for you that is exactly what I said! I still agree with that and think I may not be a true musician to deal with concepts of performing and occasional stress.
Jude – For my friends who use Beta Blockers they say the same thing about performance anxiety, nerve racking piece, calming nerves, etc. I’m afraid that I may mistake it for a miracle drug to turn me into the next Perlman or something… and that’s been a lingering thought for me, too.
That being said, I feel that it is a bit high-minded to not only rule out beta blockers but to even look down on those who have used them. My father uses them frequently- he has uncontrollable stage fright, no matter what he plays (or now conducts). Although he has learned to conduct without them, was it fair to say, "Well, then he shouldn't have been playing the solo part in Mahler 5 (trumpet player) because he was too nervous and unprepared!" I happened to have heard that performance and it was one of the most moving performances of my life- he nailed every note of it. A beta blocker doesn't automatically make him prepared- he was prepared before he took the pill, it just helped him cope with the physical and mental aspect of nerves.
I have also taken beta blockers- I will admit that they were for my undergraduate auditions. They worked wonders for me- I was able to walk into a room, still feel anxious and nervous, but it took away my sweaty shaky hands. I played all of those auditions very well. I have not taken beta blockers since that time and I do not plan on using them for my graduate school auditions. It's not because of a bad experience, which some people have mentioned, but instead because I have gotten more performance opportunities and I am no longer as nervous. When I auditioned for conservatories, I had never given a full length recital and I had never played a concerto in front of anyone besides my father, mother, teacher, and several pianists. I was terrified so my family and I made the decision to take me to a doctor. It worked wonders then, but I'm past them.
In the end, I understand your worries about dependency. Inderol and other beta blockers and suppressants are not considered to be "addictive" clinically. You do not form a chemical dependence on the pills. However, your concern over having a performance and realizing you're out of them is real. Mentally, you can form a strong bond with the pills. It would be like getting to a performance and not having your lucky coin or something, only about 100 times more terrifying. You'll likely be more nervous and upset because of the thought of playing off of them. It's not because you're "dependent" on what it does to you, it's that your mind thinks you are. This only occurs if you use them ALL the time for performances. My guess is that, for most people, if they used them only for the occasional audition or performance and not in every lesson and studio class they have, then it won't be as noticable.
I just plead that people stop looking down so harshly on them. If you don't want to use them and feel the medical risks are too high, then voice that opinion. It's certainly quite valid. But don't assume that "us people" only use them because we are not prepared. I can assure you that I have NEVER walked into an audition unprepared, especially those four times I used Inderol. I passed those auditions and I'm a better musician for it.
There are a BUNCH of warnings about this stuff - you have to watch what you combine it with, it is dangerous if you're pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, and you have to taper it if you're going off of it, otherwise you'll get a huge rebound effect.
I went on an ACE-inhibitor instead (I have to - I have dangerously high blood pressure).
Each to his/her own...
christina, not trying to get to know you too well either, but you not only are good with numbers but also wise beyond the years. way too many people with unresolved issues (especially on the mental health side because of the stigma) have not received enough medical attention/treatment and end up hurting themselves and others, all in the name of hanging in there to tough it out. it is as wrong for a person to take meds when he does not need it as a person who does not take meds when he needs it. unfortunately, online forum is not a good place to make that distinction.
Another question for those out there- who has tried the "banana" method? A lot of the same chemicals are in bananas and I have friends who swear by them (one ate 6 bananas the day he played a solo with our orchestra!) How have you found them to work? I unfortunately detest the smell, taste, and texture of bananas... so I don't have any experience with them.
I don't take beta blockers for the same reasons I don't drink if I'm upset or depressed, and I avoid any other of life's little pleasures as well at times like those, because we should be able to deal with unpleasantness all by ourselves. Crutches are bad.
This is a really fun image.
This is a really fun thread to read, as well. To bad no one here ever has an opinion, though.
Well, damn. That just about cuts out everything fun for me almost all the time. That's it. I'm off to hang myself. But first... a drink. Wait - no, I can't.... AUGH!
Pieter, honey, I'm crushed. Where is the kick-butt spitfire we all know and love? You're sounding so... sensible.. That's it, I'm coming over with a bottle of red. Consider yourself warned.
Oops. That's it. Now I'm REALLY off to drink. Either that or go take some beta blockers.
Pieter, now I want to know. I need to know. Sarcasm or serious? Are you going to leave me hanging like this? Would you just be more obvious, please? Is this the new, reformed Pieter Viljoen of 2007 that we're seeing here? Is it Ilya's influence? Ilya's absence? Ilya's vodka?
nothing has changed.
If you are talking about medicine, I take on this is: Don't do it! Try something instead, say meditation, taking deep breath or something you don't need to take in unnecessary chemicals.
Just me. I am wondering if a performer needs to take drug before performance, is that person in the right business at all?
Well said, Al. If doctors are all perfect, there won't be any incentive for medical malpractice lawsuit. That is, you will find no lawyer in that field.
You might be right. But oftentime problems are not always black-and-white. These days (in the US) the potential of getting sued is so high that a lot of doctors rely on tests or machines for easy defense. However, tests and machines often cannot detect hidden symptoms, and thus harm can be done to a patient because of the delay in discovery, not because of the physician's ability or medical knowledge. A vicious circle if I may.
In any event, I am very doubtful that any drugs would not have effect in human physiology if "necessary and sufficient" condition is met. Therefore, in my opinion, not taking a long-term effect into consideration, for a physician, is rather heckless.
All I can tell you is that doctors in my father's field pay $80,000 a year in malpractice. Doctors in the states often pay more than double. Most of them, have never been sued. I find that pretty alarming.
In any case, I agree that you shouldn't take something just because it is prescribed to you. It's good to get a second opinion from another doctor.
Doctors certainly have my sympathy on this one. Attorneys certainly know how and who to "rob" with a license. Medical malprace and personal injuries are the easy targets. Sounds like a joke, but it is a sad truth.
I will repost some of my earlier comments here. I worked as a biochemist for many years, and I have performed some studies on propranolol and reviewed many others.
I just did a Google search on "beta blocker performance anxiety," and I found a very good discussion of the subject here.
Here are a few excerpts:
"Beta blockers can significantly worsen some medical conditions. As a general rule, beta blockers should not be used in asthmatic people. Beta blockers can worsen congestive heart failure, Raynaud's syndrome, and diabetes."
"Musicians who take beta blockers often do so in small doses and only on special occasions, so they may experience no side effects at all from their use. However, many side effects have been reported."
"Beta blockers don't make you play better by themselves; they just relieve physical problems resulting from the fight or flight response. On the other hand, some musicians feel that adrenalin helps their performing, giving them an edge that adds intensity to the performance."
"Beta blockers have not been shown to directly improve a musician's emotional state, except to the extent that some musicians feel better when their physical problems are relieved. If your performance anxiety shows itself mainly in psychological ways (e.g. negative inner voices), beta blockers will not help you."
There are a lot more references to discussions on this topic.
Discussions get heated when people view taking or not taking medications as a moral issue. I'd like to return to the biological considerations. Beta blockers do not affect performance anxiety. Rather, they affect some of the symptoms of anxiety: rapid pulse, sweaty hands, reddened face, etc. Some people feel much more comfortable, focus better, and therefore play better, when they don't have these bodily manifestations of anxiety. There are other medications which affect anxiety directly.
There is often a burden of guilt attached to taking meds that affect the mind/brain. I would not preach for or against taking any meds that affect the mind. I would encourage people to learn about meds and give careful thought to taking them.
Beta blockers, like all drugs, have side effects. Most musicians who use beta blockers take relatively small doses and only take them before performances or auditions, so they are less likely to have adverse reactions than people who take them chronically. However, if you have asthma or take potassium supplements, it would be prudent to avoid taking beta blockers.
Beta blockers reduce the physical symptoms of performance anxiety. There are other medications and nondrug treatments for anxiety itself.
I would say that if you really need beta blockers or any other drugs, you should take them. Don't make yourself miserable. Just be aware of what you're doing and how it may affect you.
on another note, what do you think is the number one reason for doctors getting sued? no, not gross medical negligence... not even because of ambulance chasers either.
one more hint...it is the same reason violinists should be sued if there is such a thing!
Moral issue? Oh, no. Not again! That's a heack of heavy/powerful candy I must say.
Al Ku plays the violin very well, especially for a self-taught. Just amazing. He was trying to be modest. Don't let that fool you. Go after him, I meant. :-)
25 years ago while you were in college? Hoohoo, you just spilled the beans...Many math persons on this forum you see. :-)
i am much better at screaming and yelling when violin was played around me but not by me:). i have come a long way of short distance having the first lesson given by a 3 year old and practicing only when i have to (to keep up, for self esteem may be, however little is left)....it shows and it sucks:(
to some people, like me, listening to violin playing by real players is so much more satisfying and less aggravating:)
Oh yeah, of course, Al! I thought I was a "violinist". Muhahahahahhaha....A twinkle player. :-)
I think the simplest answer is, don't take them.
on the subject of beta blockers:
"Never, never, ever ever EVER never...never ever..."
Do I get the drink?
flagged above as I sincerely belive it to be dangerous.
Please don`t fool around with drugs or give anyone licence to hand them out indiscriminately.
Gee, back in the college days of yore, we all did a shot of tequila before the Beethoven Archduke performance...the cellist kept yelling ole during the scherzo.
Thanks, Buri, I deleted it.
Sam did you ever experiment to get thr cellist to switch languages?
Andrew, I`m very sorry to be so blunt but the statement you make about `many people` is incorrect, assuming you are referring to this thread. If you read all the postings on this thread there are actually only a couple of voices against taking them because they are dangerous `end of discussion.` This is objectively verifiable by making a mark on a memo pad everytime you come across that opinion voice
I wonder if you might have done what I often do , and often come to regret, which is read through just a few postings. In which case my recent post might seem alarmist and negative. However, that post only concerned an irresponsible and possibly illegal action through v.commie which Laurie removed before hopefully too many people read it.
You are quite right any discussion of the subject should be based on fact and the genuine experience of those who genuinly need them. Drugs only become a problem when dealt with in secrecy or from position of close mindedness.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
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