Can Digital Drugs Get You High?
About a month ago, a scientist in the United Arab Emirates started making noise about banning something called “binaural beats,” which he referred to as “digital drugs.” These are audio tracks—calling them “music” would be a bit of a stretch—that you can buy online for $16.95 or less. Banning tones that purport to alter your state of mind sounded to me like an over-the-top, reactionary response to something that probably didn’t even work. But what if it did work? What if these tracks really got you high?
I decided I should give this stuff a try, so I downloaded five different MP3 “dose packs” from I-Doser, a supplier of the futuristic, mind-melding drugs who take themselves quite seriously. According to their website, they have “several teams of underground music and tonal experts, programmers, testers, researchers, and admins,” and “each audio track contains advanced binaural beats that will synchronize your brainwaves.” Whoa. There were a lot of different doses available—sexual doses, designer doses, sport doses, game enhancers, pure doses, and so on—so I had to be somewhat selective. I didn’t want anything that produced a calming sensation, since I could get that from a meditative flute piece on YouTube accompanied by a still shot of a waterfall. I wanted to trip out and feel closer to the big man upstairs. So I got the most advanced versions of the “recreational,” “prescription,” “fictional,” “sacred,” and “celestial” dose packs. Each contained four 15-minute-long audio tracks, and I tried out the most interesting sounding ones.
Prescription Simulations: Ambie
My options in the pack of prescription doses were Xanax, Ambie, Valim, and Klono. I went with Ambie, which is supposed to simulate the effect of Ambien. Now, I came into this thinking that these beats were all just a big pile of stupid, but I was determined to give it a shot. I sat on a chair in my bedroom and put my ear buds in, started the track, and closed my eyes. I was trying to force myself into a Zen state and let the beats take over my mind. The track began with a steady, mechanical hum that occasionally got interrupted by some kind of static. It later flowed into a soft and calming mystical tune, the soundtrack of a fairytale. I didn’t really feel anything for the first couple minutes, and I opened my eyes around four minutes into the session. They felt a little heavy, but I told myself it was psychological, a placebo. Then I realized, hey this stuff is sort of the real deal. My head started feeling heavy and gradually got heavier and heavier. By the end of the session my entire body was numbed and tingling. I started waving my arms around to prove to myself that these sensations were happening because I’d been sitting in the same position for 15 minutes with my eyes closed. It didn’t help, though. My brain was empty and five minutes later, I still felt completely sedated.
So I guess this stuff works.