Off-Label Use of Rx Drugs Legal, Controversial
Beta-blockers prescribed for patients with heart disease or high blood pressure have found their way into the nation’s colleges and high schools. Students don’t take them recreationally. Instead they use them to reduce performance anxiety and achieve better test scores.
- Students, musicians taking beta-blockers to fight performance anxiety
- Performance enhancer or performance enabler?
- Off-label use of prescription drugs legal, widespread
Beta-Blockers Enhance Performance, Test Scores
The use of prescription drugs for conditions the drugs weren’t approved for is called off-label use. Off-label use is legal when a physician prescribes the drug in the practice of medicine. Doctors recognize performance anxiety as a medical condition. They will prescribe drugs to help performers who have stage fright or students who get too nervous before exams. A number of sports where a steady nerve is considered part of what makes a good athlete have banned beta-blockers.
Doctors also prescribe Ritalin for this condition. It is approved for attention deficit disorder in kids. Botox is another drug commonly used off-label. The FDA originally approved Botox for crossed eyes and eyelid tics, and later for treatment of certain facial wrinkles. It’s now prescribed for all kinds of cosmetic purposes and for some muscular conditions.
It’s not unusual for people to get the drugs without a prescription from someone who has one. Off-label use raises safety concerns. Using controlled drugs without a doctor’s prescription increases these concerns. This is especially true when drugs developed to treat adult conditions are prescribed in adolescents. The other unanswered question is does a student who takes a beta-blocker before the SAT gain an unfair advantage by doing so?
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