Playing With Propranolol
Hastings Center Report. 1992 Jul-Aug; 22(4): 13-17.
Propranolol use by musicians is an interesting case study for several reasons. It is a drug that can enhance one's performance and may increase one's advantage in the competitive field of the performing arts. As such, its use gives rise to moral questions similar to those raised by the use of steroids by athletes, such as fairness, or harm to the individual. In addition, ambiguity about the meaning of performance anxiety and propranolol use complicates the moral issues. Is performance anxiety a normal phenomenon, as most musicians believe? At what point does it become pathological? Does the fact that physicians prescribe propranolol to treat performance anxiety confer upon it the status of disease? Or does the fact that musicians often obtain this prescription drug from their friends and take it before any important performance constitute simply another form of drug abuse?
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