Doping for a Presidential Debate

Last night, Glenn Fleishman asked:

Responses were predictably all over. Some suggested Adderall, others offered ketamine. No one touched on one of the best drug categories for improving public speaking performance: propranolol.

Propranolol is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers reduce the speed and force of your heartbeat, also lowering your blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of norepinephrine and adrenaline receptors. Both are stress hormones involved in the flight of fight response. Blocking their effects help reduce the effects of anxiety, smoothing out your responses.

Beta-blockers are so effective at improving performance, the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) has banned beta-blockers in sports requiring fine motor skills: archery, darts, golf, shooting, among others. The PGA has also banned beta-blockers after claims pros were using them to prevent the yips while putting. (Yips are a nickname for the small, involuntary muscle movements that cause you to miss putts.) Their use isn’t limited to athletes. Musicians regularly use them to combat stage jitters, event when competing for coveted orchestral seats.

Beta-Blockers vs. Adderall

Adderall is the undisputed king of study drugs. If you have a paper you need to crank out, or some other mountain of repetitive work, Adderall’s target fixation attributes can be valuable. Get on a debate stage, however, and a stimulant may be less than ideal. And the side effects may make you look less than presidential. Some of these side effects may include:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness

Propranolol isn’t without its own side effects, namely drowsiness. This should be manageable with the right dosing. Whether you should take prescription drugs for enhancement, however, is your decision. Drugs used for cognitive enhancement vary by their effects, side effects and interactions. If you choose to dope, ensure you’re using the right substance to enhance the appropriate characteristics.

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