Here's The Pill That Could Make Your Next Big Presentation A Hit

Aaron Taube

As Jason Smoller prepared to graduate college and embark on a career as a classical musician in 2008, the prospect of auditioning for gigs and performing for paying customers was one that caused no small amount of anxiety.

During his more important college performances, the oboist would sometimes suffer from a quickened heartbeat, sweaty palms, and shaky hands — an especially damaging symptom given the precision needed to play his woodwind instrument.

One of his teachers suggested a series of mental preparation exercises, but the techniques gave Smoller no relief.

When Worthington prescribes it, he says he always makes sure patients have practice using it prior to their big performance. Otherwise, they could experience unwanted side effects like extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and light-headedness.

He also said that people tend to have a wide range of reactions to the drugs, so it's important to discuss them with your doctor before asking for a prescription. 

"If you have your biggest job interview ever with Google, I wouldn't recommend taking it for the first time that morning," Worthington said.

Dr. Binoy Singh, associate chief of cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, is even more cautious. He says he doesn't prescribe the drug at all because there has not yet been a long-term, randomized clinical trial proving its effectiveness at resolving anxiety (the 1977 study included just 24 musicians over the course of one evening).

Instead, Singh said he prefers to prescribe benzodiazepines, which directly influence the way the brain perceives anxiety as opposed to the way beta blockers affect the body's physical reaction to a high-pressure situation.

Still, he notes, benzodiazepines like Xanax can alter muscle tone, reaction times, and balance, which could be problematic for people hoping to remain sharp while they are performing for an audience.

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