Medical uses

Propranolol is used for treating various conditions, including:

Cardiovascular[edit]

While once a first-line treatment for hypertension, the role for beta blockers was downgraded in June 2006 in the United Kingdom to fourth-line, as they do not perform as well as other drugs, particularly in the elderly, and evidence is increasing that the most frequently used beta blockers at usual doses carry an unacceptable risk of provoking type 2 diabetes.[11]

Propranolol is not recommended for the treatment of high blood pressure by the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) because a higher rate of the primary composite outcome of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, or stroke compared to an angiotensin receptor blocker was noted in one study.[12]

Psychiatric[edit]

Propranolol is occasionally used to treat performance anxiety,[2] although evidence to support its use in any anxiety disorders is poor.[13] Its benefits appear similar to benzodiazepines in panic disorder with potentially fewer side effects such as addiction.[13] Some experimentation has been conducted in other psychiatric areas:[14]

PTSD and phobias[edit]

Propranolol is being investigated as a potential treatment for PTSD.[18][19] Propranolol works to inhibit the actions of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that enhances memory consolidation. In one small study individuals given propranolol immediately after trauma experienced fewer stress-related symptoms and lower rates of PTSD than respective control groups who did not receive the drug.[20] Due to the fact that memories and their emotional content are reconsolidated in the hours after they are recalled/re-experienced, propranolol can also diminish the emotional impact of already formed memories; for this reason, it is also being studied in the treatment of specific phobias, such as arachnophobiadental fear, and social phobia.[21]

Ethical and legal questions have been raised surrounding the use of propranolol-based medications for use as a “memory damper”, including: altering memory-recalled evidence during an investigation, modifying behavioral response to past (albeit traumatic) experiences, the regulation of these drugs, and others.[22] However, Hall and Carter have argued that many such objections are “based on wildly exaggerated and unrealistic scenarios that ignore the limited action of propranolol in affecting memory, underplay the debilitating impact that PTSD has on those who suffer from it, and fail to acknowledge the extent to which drugs like alcohol are already used for this purpose.”[23]