Beta blockers are drugs primarily for treating high blood pressure and arrhythmias. They work blocking a hormone known as epinephrine, better known as adrenaline - the same hormone that floods our bodies during times of anxiety and stress.

That’s why beta blockers are becoming popular off-label for anxiety.

Anxiety is not what it used to be. You are not worried about being eaten by a tiger or sacked by Mongol hordes, you are maybe unhappy in your marriage or don't feel appreciated at work. Pills to the rescue, if you are in a wealthy country like America.

So some doctors are recommending them for patients to take in specific instances, rather than general use like antidepressants or benzodiazepines.

Credit: University Health News

In 1980s, scientists found that people with heart failure and high levels of norepinephrine in their blood had an increased risk of dying from their condition. Since beta blockers modulate the activity of the sympathetic nervous system that produces norepinephrine, they went into clinical trials and were found to improve survival by 34 percent. After positive post-market data, beta blockers were added to the standard treatment of diuretics and ACE inhibitors for heart failure patients.

Later they were anecdotally said to reduce anxiety and weight of evidence now says that is so, at least for some. Because they don't alter brain chemistry, they are an easier rare use remedy than psychiatric medication. 

Some argue that such use off label is not a bad thing, since you may become less anxious if you can face whatever fear is making you anxious without any physical symptoms. That means the fear may be mitigated with exposure more easily. 

But before you jump on the bandwagon, talk to your medical provider. People with asthma or other lung diseases, diabetes, or pregnant women need to get guidance first.