HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Return to Propranolol overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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I take Propranolol for anxiety: Rachel's story
Propranolol has the beneficial effect of de-stressing my body and making me feel less tense and wound-up

Propranolol can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study?  Can I drink?
Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information.
Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.
You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.

We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information. Please be aware that the leaflets will only refer to the licensed use for your medicine. The leaflet will not mention any off label use - this includes off-label conditions and also off label age groups”

Safety headlines

  • If you have taken more propranolol than it said on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Propranolol can cause rare but serious side-effects such as allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps), a slow heartbeat or a heartbeat that is not regular. Go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms and take your medicine with you.
  • Tell your doctor that you are taking propranolol if you are due to have an operation with a general anaesthetic. You may need to stop the medicine before the operation day.
  • Stopping propranolol suddenly can cause serious side-effects that might include sweating, shaking, and an irregular heart beat or chest pain - go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects.
  • You might feel sleepy or dizzy in the first few days after taking propranolol - do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.
  • If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, please read the pregnancy section (see “Sex, drink, weight and everything else”) because propranolol may affect the developing baby.

Propranolol can be used to help the symptoms of anxiety

Basic Details

Propranolol is a beta-blocker medicine

A beta-blocker medicine helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, like sweating and shaking. It does not treat the feeling of anxiety – only the physical symptoms that come with it.

The tablets contain lactose, the long-acting capsules contain gelatine, the liquid contains sugars, and they may also have colours that can cause allergies – check if any of these are a problem for you.

Is propranolol suitable for everyone?

  • Propranolol tablets may not be suitable for you if you have problems eating some sugars or dairy (milk-based) foods, as they contain lactose.
  • Some propranolol tablets may contain colours that can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you are allergic to any food additives.
  • Propranolol long-acting capsules contain gelatine and this may be a problem if you don't eat meat.
  • The liquid may contain ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction, which may happen some time after starting the medicine. These are:
    • methyl and propyl parahydroxybenzoates
    • the food additive colour sunset yellow (E110)
  • The liquid may also contain maltitol (a type of sugar related to fructose). If your doctor has told you that you cannot eat some sugars, check with your doctor before taking it.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on propranolol. Tablets, slow release capsules and liquid are listed separately. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web 
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents 
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/ 
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm