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Return to Propranolol overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
Katie louise listing
Treating bipolar, depression and anxiety
If I could go back in time to before I started taking meds, I would tell myself to persevere as things will get better, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

You can drink alcohol while taking propranolol, but it could make you very sleepy

  • If you drink alcohol, you can continue to drink alcohol while taking propranolol but having the two together might make you very sleepy and unsteady on your feet.
  • So, during the first few days, it might be best to stop drinking alcohol until you see how the medicine affects you or until the side-effects pass.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, remember that you might be very sleepy. Make sure you can get home safely.
  • Drinking alcohol every day, or in large amounts, can make your symptoms worse and the propranolol will not get the best chance to act.

Do not drive a car or ride a bike just after you start taking propranolol

  • Taking propranolol may make you feel tired or dizzy or faint, and may affect your eyesight, when you start taking it.
  • This could affect you if you drive a car, ride a bike, or do anything else that needs a lot of focus. It might be best to stop doing these things for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.
  • Some people get propranolol to help them relax and stop any shaking for their driving test, but they should test how they feel on propranolol a few days before they take the test.
  • Do not worry - most people drive as normal while taking propranolol.

Try not to take propranolol for the first time just before your exams

  • You can feel dizzy or faint or confused when you start taking propranolol, and it can make your eyesight blurred.
  • You should talk to your doctor about any future exams if you are starting propranolol.
  • You might decide together to delay starting it until you have done them. 
  • If they are more than a week away, however, you might find that it is better to start propranolol to improve any shaking or sweating that you get.
  • Do not worry - most people do exams as normal while taking propranolol.

Propranolol is a banned substance in some sports

For most of them, it is only banned ‘In-competition’

These sports are:

  • Archery (WA) (also prohibited Out-of-Competition) 
  • Automobile (car sports) (FIA)
  • Billiards (all disciplines) (WCBS) 
  • Darts (WDF) 
  • Golf (IGF) 
  • Shooting (ISSF, IPC) (also prohibited Out-of-Competition) 
  • Skiing/Snowboarding (FIS) in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/halfpipe and snowboard halfpipe/big air.
  • Underwater sports (CMAS) in constant-weight apnoea with or without fins, dynamic apnoea with and without fins, free immersion apnoea, Jump Blue apnoea, spearfishing, static apnoea, target shooting and variable weight apnoea.

When you start taking propranolol, it could make you feel tired or dizzy or faint or confused, and could make your eyesight blurred, so do not do any sports that need a lot of focus just after you start taking propranolol.

Do not worry - most people do sports as normal while taking propranolol.

Propranolol should not affect your weight

  • There is no evidence that propranolol affects your weight.

Let your family and friends know you are taking propranolol so they can support you and help you look out for side effects

  • The side-effects of propranolol might put a strain on your friendships and relationships, especially in the first few days of taking it.
  • You could have mood changes, feel confused and have memory problems.
  • These side-effects should get better after a few days.
  • You should then be getting the good effects of propranolol, and that should improve your relationships in itself.
  • It might actually be a great idea to choose a good friend to tell about your medicine when you start taking it. (Or - even better - to take one with you to the doctor before you start taking it!)
  • They could look at the medicine leaflet, or at this website.
  • They could help you to understand whether the medicine changes your behaviour, or gives you side-effects (sometimes it is hard for us to see it ourselves).

Propranolol can have side-effects that might affect your sex life

  • The side-effects of propranolol include general problems with having sex.
  • You may also get some side-effects, like a rash or hair loss, that makes you feel less sexy than before.

These effects should pass after the first couple of weeks. If they do not, and this is a problem for you, go back to the doctor and see what else you could try.

Is it safe to take propranolol in pregnancy?

There is no yes or no answer to this question. When deciding whether or not to take propranolol during pregnancy it is important to weigh up how necessary propranolol is to your health against the possible risks to you or your baby, some of which will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are.

Remaining well is particularly important during pregnancy and while caring for a baby. For some women, treatment with propranolol in pregnancy may be the best option for both mother and baby.

Please consult the UK Teratology Information Service’s Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (Bumps) website for more information, including specific information on propranolol in pregnancy.

Is it safe to breastfeed while taking propranolol?

  • Propranolol can be passed to the baby in the breastmilk but the levels are generally very low and so the risk of side effects in the baby is also low.
  • It is generally thought that it is alright to breast feed while taking propranolol, but as everyone is different it is important to seek advice from your doctor or midwife first.
  • Remember that it is important for you to remain well whilst you are bonding with and looking after your baby. For this reason, it may be best to take medicine for your mental health when breastfeeding.
  • Make sure that your doctor, nurse, or health visitor checks your baby for any side effects.
  • If your baby was premature or has health problems, then you will need to be extra careful about taking medicines whilst breastfeeding. It may be best not to breastfeed if this is the case, however you should discuss this with your doctor or midwife.

If you start or stop smoking while you are taking propranolol, you may have to change your dose.

  • Cigarette smoke affects the amount of propranolol in your body.
  • If you smoke, you will probably need a higher dose of propranolol than someone who does not smoke.
  • Tell your doctor if you smoke, so that you get the right dose for you.
  • If you stop smoking, the body propranolol level rises and you might need to reduce your dose of propranolol slowly over one week.
  • If you (re)start smoking, you will probably need to increase it again.
  • Go to your doctor for advice if you stop or start smoking.