Adverse CNS-effects of beta-adrenoceptor blockers

Pharmacopsychiatry. 1996 Nov;29(6):201-11. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-979572.


In 1962 propranolol, the first beta adrenoceptor antagonist (beta blocker), was brought on to the market. There is now a host of different beta blockers available, and these compounds are among the most commonly prescribed groups of drugs. The efficacy of beta blockers has been proven predominantly for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Beta blockers are also used for certain types of CNS disorders, such as anxiety disorders, essential tremor and migraine. While low toxicity means that they have a favorable risk-benefit ratio, given the high intensity of use, it is essential to have a comprehensive knowledge of adverse events. Adverse events of beta blockers that can be related to the CNS are quite often neglected, even in textbooks of clinical pharmacology or review articles, and thus often misdiagnosed. The following article, therefore, after summarizing the use of beta blockers for CNS indications, critically reviews the literature on centrally mediated adverse events. General pharmacological features of beta blockers and their molecular basis of action will briefly be addressed to the extent that they are or may become relevant for central nervous pharmacotherapy and side-effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Migraine Disorders / prevention & control
  • Tremor / drug therapy


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists