Propranolol Uses & Side Effects

Propranolol is a beta-blocker that can calm you down and lower your blood pressure. Here’s what you should know about taking propranolol.
Evidence Based
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What is Propranolol (Zovirax)?

Propranolol is an FDA-approved, nonselective beta-blocker. Beta-blockers subvert beta receptors, which are tiny proteins, while they latch onto the chemical messengers from the central nervous system (CNS).

They prevent those receptors and messengers from binding together. This, in turn, slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and relaxes your blood vessels. Propranolol calms you down, improves your blood flow, and regularizes your cardiac rhythm. 

Propranolol comes in tablet form, as an extended-release oral capsule, and as a solution. All forms of propranolol are generally safe to take, but you should consult your doctor before taking propranolol. 

If you’re allergic to propranolol, you have a severe heart condition, or you have an abnormally slow heart rate, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not propranolol is safe for you. If you’re a smoker or suffer from asthma or another medical condition that gives you trouble breathing, you should also consult your doctor.

Propranolol is considered safe for breastfeeding women, as there are low levels of propranolol in breast milk. 

Some brand names for propranolol include:

  • Inderal
  • Inderal LA
  • InnoPran XL
  • Hemangeol

Other beta-blockers for heart conditions include metoprolol and atenolol.

Propranolol Uses

Propranolol is used to treat many conditions, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Migraines
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat, such as atrial fibrillation
  • Angina (a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Tremors (shaking)
  • Hypertension (when the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high). Treatment for this condition may include taking propranolol along with weight control techniques, exercise, and diet
  • Other heart conditions

What is the Dosage for Propranolol?

Talk to your doctor about the propranolol dosage that’s appropriate for you. Only take this medicine as directed by your doctor, and note that your dose may need to be adjusted a few times to determine what amount and frequency work best for you.

If you have missed a propranolol dose, you should take it as soon as possible unless it’s almost time for your next dose. If this is the case, you should skip it and resume your regular dosing schedule. In other words, do not double your dosage.

Before taking propranolol, let your doctor know if you have any of the following:

  • Low blood sugar or diabetes
  • Slow heart rhythm
  • Low blood pressure
  • Thyroid issues
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Adrenal gland tumor (pheochromocytoma)
  • Circulation problems, such as Raynaud's syndrome
  • A muscle disorder
  • Breathing disorders, such as emphysema or bronchitis
  • Depression

How Should I Take Propranolol?

You may swallow an oral dose of propranolol or take it via injection. The medication comes in tablet form, an extended-release capsule, or a solution. Depending on your need and dosage, your doctor will let you know the best way to take propranolol, whether it's an oral solution or an injection.

Do not take propranolol any more or less than your doctor directs. Likewise, do not exceed your treatment plan. Store your propranolol medication at room temperature.

What are the Side Effects of Propranolol?

Taking propranolol may cause some side effects in some people. While these common side effects are not necessarily serious, they can be uncomfortable:

  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Tingling sensation
  • Coldness in hands or feet
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Migraine headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Unusual dreams
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Low libido
  • Skin rash

You may not experience any side effects from taking propranolol. That said, most people who take beta-blockers will experience at least one. It may take time to get adjusted to propranolol, as with other beta-blockers. That’s why about one in five users end up switching to another beta-blocker or drug.

If you experience an allergic reaction to propranolol, consult your doctor right away.

What Medications Should Not Be Taken With Propranolol?

Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs may interact with propranolol, such as other drugs to treat high blood pressure and other heart conditions. Propranolol does not, however, have any known severe drug interactions with other medications.

To be proactive, inform your doctor of any other medications for heart conditions (like amiodarone, quinidine, or propafenone) that you are taking before starting propranolol.

Is Propranolol Addictive?

Beta-blockers, including propranolol, are considered a non-addictive medication, unlike some other treatments for anxiety. You may begin to get used to the calming effect that propranolol can provide. When you’re feeling anxious, you may feel inclined to take propranolol to soothe your symptoms.

If you are worried about becoming dependent on your medication or experiencing adverse effects, talk to your doctor about alternatives that may better suit you. 

Propranolol Questions and Answers

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about propranolol:

Is propranolol good for anxiety?

Propranolol can help treat anxiety. This is because the beta-blocker works by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure, which both increase with anxiety. Propranolol is one treatment option to help ease stress, though it may not be for everyone.

How does propranolol make you feel?

Propranolol can make you feel at ease. This is because it blocks the physical symptoms of anxiety by lowering your heart rate and decreasing your blood pressure. You may experience a feeling of calm while taking propranolol and, hence, better manage any stressors in your life. This is why treating anxiety is one of the many possible uses for propranolol.

Some people may experience uncomfortable side effects when taking propranolol. While these side effects are not life-threatening, they can be enough to make you choose to switch to another medication.

Can propranolol cause weight gain?

Weight gain is one of the potential side effects of taking propranolol. While it is possible, not everyone who takes propranolol will experience weight gain. If you do experience weight gain, consult your healthcare provider for medical advice.

What is propranolol used for?

Propranolol is used to treat many heart problems and other conditions such as high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm, an essential tremor, hyperthyroidism, and hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (a heart disease of the muscle).

It is also used to treat pheochromocytoma, which is a tumor on a small gland near the kidneys, to prevent angina (chest pain), and to improve survival after a heart attack. Because propranolol alleviates physical symptoms of anxiety, such as high blood pressure and an increased heart rate, it can also be used to treat anxiety and migraine headaches.

Propranolol has not been adequately tested in heart failure.

How quickly does propranolol work for anxiety?

It takes 30 to 60 minutes to feel the effects of propranolol. The medication provides 3 to 4 hours of relief from the physical symptoms associated with performance anxiety.

Do propranolol side effects go away?

Propranolol side effects can last a few days to weeks, depending on the patient and dosage.


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Resources

“Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure.” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-stress-to-control-high-blood-pressure

“Propranolol (Cardiovascular): MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682607.html.  

“Propranolol.” Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 31 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501162/

“Propranolol (Oral Route) Side Effects.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 June 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/propranolol-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20071164?p=1

“Propranolol.” Global, www.cardiosmart.org/Healthwise/d000/32/d00032

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Ask the Doctor: Beta Blockers and Alcohol.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/beta-blockers-and-alcohol

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Beta Blockers: Cardiac Jacks of All Trades.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/beta-blockers-cardiac-jacks-of-all-trades

RecoveryConnection/. “What Are Beta Blockers?: List of Beta Blockers, Side Effects & Uses.” Recovery Connection, 7 Feb. 2020, www.recoveryconnection.com/substance-abuse/medication/class/beta-blockers/.

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Updated on: October 15, 2020
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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