This Is How Long It Takes For Beta Blockers To Start Working

Beta blocker medications lower blood pressure and reduce the force and speed of your heartbeat, according to Healthline. The World Health Organization defines high blood pressure as a serious medical condition that makes people susceptible to heart, brain, kidney, and other essential organ failures. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults unknowingly have high blood pressure. The condition is responsible for around 7.6 million yearly deaths worldwide, as noted in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Hypertension.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that leading a fit and healthy lifestyle can be a great way to reduce your vulnerability to hypertension. However, not everyone can keep up with such lifestyle demands, and that's where beta blockers come in. The science behind the functionality of beta blockers is simple. They slow down the effects of adrenaline (often known as the fight-or-flight hormone), slowing your heart rate in the process (via WebMD). This also means beta blockers can treat various conditions related to the heart and are ideal for treating anxiety-related symptoms, per Healthline. How long beta blockers take to work usually depends on the type of medication and what it's being used to treat.

How long do beta blockers take to work?

Not all beta blockers work the same way. Some beta blockers are only effective on specific beta receptors, which is a key consideration in classifying beta blockers (via Cleveland Clinic). Based on these criteria, Healthline outlines various types of beta blockers. They include acebutolol, atenolol, bisoprolol, carteolol, esmolol, metoprolol, nadolol, nebivolol, and propranolol. 

The Cleveland Clinic notes that beta blockers are considered for "off-label use," meaning they can be legally and safely prescribed for performance anxiety, even though that's not their original intention. As they're fast-acting, they're commonly used to relieve acute short-term anxiety symptoms (via MedicalNewsToday). Options like propranolol take between 30 minutes and 1 hour to start working for anxiety-related symptoms, and you might sometimes see more pronounced results between 4 and 12 hours after dosage, per Addiction Group. MedicalNewsToday adds that the various types are also formulated differently, requiring different routes of administration, such as oral, intravenous, and ophthalmic.

Side effects of beta blockers

The use of beta blockers is associated with a wide range of side effects. Some users complain of fatigue, dizziness, and cold fingers and toes, which are all signs of a slow heart rate or a limitation of blood supply to the hands and feet, per the National Health System. Some men might also find it difficult to sustain an erection since beta blockers can decrease blood flow to the penis (via Harvard Medical School). The source adds that this effect is occasional, and for the most part, other blood pressure drugs like alpha-blockers and angiotensin-receptor blockers rarely cause erectile dysfunction.

According to MedicalNewsToday, people with Reynaud's disease, asthma, and other heart conditions may have more pronounced side effects. They should only take beta blockers according to their doctor's instructions. The source also advises pregnant women to visit their doctors for a thorough medical assessment to determine which beta blockers are most suitable — even though some types may generically be harmless to them and their babies.