The Great Beta Blocker Debate

The use of so-called “beta blocker” drugs is rampant in the classical music world, where a single mistake can be career-threatening and the tiny muscle motions needed to control a performance can be seriously affected by a sudden attack of nerves. But even in private, most professional musicians never talk about the prevalence of the drugs, for fear of admitting weakness. Still, performers and doctors alike defend the use of beta blockers, pointing out that that they are far less harmful than the alcohol and Valium that musicians of the past used to overcome nervousness.