Drug-fuelled shooting as a spectator sport

The Atlantic has a provocative article arguing that drug-fuelled shootings would make competitive sport more interesting, although probably not in the way you’re thinking.

The piece discusses beta blockers such as propranolol, drugs that have their major effect on the peripheral part of the autonomic nervous system.

They don’t actually make the user feel less psychologically anxious, but just reduce the normal ‘fight or flight’ pumped feeling, so the bodily effects of anxiety such as shaking, sweating, heart pounding and muscle tension are reduced.

These drugs are used widely by professional musicians to stop performance jitters and the Atlantic article argues that they should be allowed in sports like shooting and archery so competitors aren’t disadvantaged by performance anxiety.

From a competitive standpoint, this is what makes beta blockers so interesting : they seem to level the playing field for anxious and non-anxious performers, helping nervous performers much more than they help performers who are naturally relaxed. In the British study, for example, the musician who experienced the greatest benefit was the one with the worst nervous tremor. This player’s score increased by a whopping 73%, whereas the musicians who were not nervous saw hardly any effect at all.

One of the most compelling arguments against performance enhancing drugs is that they produce an arms race among competitors, who feel compelled to use the drugs even when they would prefer not to, simply to stay competitive. But this argument falls away if the effects of the drug are distributed so unequally. If it’s only the nervous performers who are helped by beta blockers, there’s no reason for anyone other than nervous performers to use them.

Link to ‘In Defense of the Beta Blocker’ (via 3QD).

4 thoughts on “Drug-fuelled shooting as a spectator sport”

  1. Excellent for public speaking too! I wish I’d discovered them years ago. I almost enjoy giving talks now – before it was a painful experience for me and my audience. My voice as well as my hands used to shake. The only side effect I find is that they seem to make my feet feel a bit cold!

  2. I can’t think of any difference between this and steroid abuse in a sport. The discipline and effort expended by a proffesional athlete, _especially_ among marksmen and other accuracy intensive athletes, to control their ‘jitters’ is part and parcel of the effort they make to become better shots. To allow someone else to chemically acheive what they themselves have spent a lifetime pursuing, is the definition of cheating. Leave the drugs to those who need them for the course of every day life, and leave them very much OUT of competition.

  3. The use of Beta-Blockers to reduce tremor and performance anxiety has been known since the 1980’s. There was a NEJM article around that time that discussed its use in public speakers (to reduce a quavering or tremulous voice) and in concert violinists. I’ve been recommending it to my patients with performance anxiety for years (also known as ‘Stage frightt’)

  4. If you are the nervous type or if you’re not
    all you have to do is take a damn bath in
    magnesium oil, skip the caffeine and you’re
    good to go. The magnesium caps and powders
    are good for constipation and not much else.
    It’s sold under the name Transdermal Magnesium
    and I don’t sell it.

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