As requested by my Language and Composition teacher, I am back with yet another post on the topic of beta blockers!!!
Today I found another article about beta blockers. Titled An Interview with Thomas A. Brantigan: Beta Blockers and Musicians – A Thirty-Year Retrospective, it was written by Luis C. Engelke, however I focus primarily on the views of the interviewee.
Thomas A. Brantigan is a pretty reliable source. In 1979 he conducted a study on the effectiveness of beta blockers in alleviating the symptoms associated with performance anxiety, called The Effect of Beta Blockade on Stage Fright: A Controlled Study. Through this study, he comes to the conclusion that beta blockers can in fact be an effective way of treating performance anxiety.
Not only did Brantigan conduct a controlled study on performance anxiety, but he also has first-hand experience with it as an organist. He has personally tried out beta blockers, which allows him to take a stance on them based on his own personal experience rather than what he has heard. Ultimately, Brantigan found other ways to combat his anxiety. He tries to make the performing experience more fun, but understands that because he does not pursue music as a career, this is easier for him than most.
Brantigan disagrees in the comparison of athletes and steroids with musicians and beta blockers. Beta blockers don’t make you a better player, they just decrease extreme levels of anxiety. This is said to be no different from taking tylenol for a headache.
Engelke asks Brantigan in the interview if he believes that professional musicians coming forward about the use of beta blockers will make young musicians misuse the drug. Brantigan’s response was:
“Any and every drug can and will be abused particularly in a society where drug use seems to be recreational as much as anything. But do you then say to a Glenn Gould that he should not be a musician because he suffers from stage-fright. The world may lose great talent that it could otherwise benefit from. People may not reach a potential that they could otherwise achieve.”
What I think Brantigan is trying to get at, is that it’s all about your own personal experience with performance anxiety. If you are going to be able to walk out on stage and perform better because you aren’t focusing on your sweaty palms or shortness of breath, then use beta blockers in safe moderation under the direction of a physician.