PillsCredit: Richard Dunstan



There are medications that treat hypertension and heart disease, as well as a host of other diseases. Racial bias cannot technically be called a disease. However, wouldn't it be wonderful if it could medically be treated as a disease?

Researchers from Oxford University in Britain have discovered that a common heart disease drug called Propranolol, which effectively lowers blood pressure in patients diagnosed with heart disease, also reduces racist attitudes among such recipients of the medication.

What is Racism?

Prejudice or racial bias has existed as long as mankind has existed.  It continues to be a problem in the world. It has contributed to or exacerbated such things as slavery, wars, and criminal activity. It is the hatred of one person by another simply because of the color of one’s skin, birthplace, culture, language, or any other trait that seemingly portrays one’s very nature.

What is Propranolol?

It is one of many successful beta blockers developed for treatment of people who face a risk of cardiac disease. It is used to treat hypertension and anxiety. Researchers are studying the drug to determine if it would effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder, as well. The drug impacts the amygdala, a region of the brain that processes fear and other emotions.

What Does the Research Show?

Prejudice has long been considered to be a negative behavior that is learned. The research from Oxford University, however, introduces a variable to the long-believed views of its cause. The research claims that Propranolol may lesson subconscious racist attitudes in individuals.

Oxford researchers administered the drug to eighteen subjects. Placebos were administered to an equal number of people in the study. All participants in the study were administered a racial bias test called the Racial Implicit Association Test. Those who received the actual drug scored significantly lower on the test those in the placebo group did.  The researchers noted, however, that, even though those in the Propranolol group scored lower in measurement of subconscious racial prejudice, there was no noteworthy difference in their conscious prejudice regarding other races. In addition, researchers noticed no difference in religious or sexual prejudice, or in prejudice toward people with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Researchers believe that the drug affects only subconscious bias because of its impact on the amygdale, which is that portion the brain that processes human emotion.

In conclusion, more research is needed, but the results seem to suggest the possibility that one day a pill could be administered to counter racial bias. Researchers note, however, that such a thing would require a great deal of ethical analysis.