Drug-seeking teens are going online to download a new kind of digital high, according to fast-multiplying media reports. Instead of a chemical substance, these digital drugs are audio files, with names like “Crack,” “LSD” and “Heroin.” When played through headphones, they supposedly alter listeners’ brainwaves and create a drug-like buzz — for about $1-$2 per dose. Already, the “craze” has got parents, teachers and at least one state narcotics bureau concerned.
The digital tracks are binaural, or two-toned, recordings that deliver different tones in each ear, altering brainwaves. Teenagers who use i-dosing tracks — there are plenty of testimonials on YouTube — claim they can get you as high as marijuana and other illicit drugs. (More on Time.com: The Drug From Rio’s Slums That You’ve Never Heard Of)
In reality, that’s unlikely. Blogging on Psychology Today, Ron Doyle is skeptical. He notes that i-dosing is no drug. Rather, it’s binaural beat therapy, which was first discovered in 1839 and has been “used in clinical settings to research hearing and sleep cycles, to induce various brainwave states and treat anxiety.” Doyle writes:
If you’ve wandered through a Brookstone or Sharper Image store in your local shopping mall and noticed sleep therapy or “brain-controller” devices for sale, that’s just an upper middle class, “I need to stop thinking about my 401(k)” version of the same digital drug that the new crop of seedy i-dosing websites are offering to teens.
Is it a real drug? Probably not.
Is it a sign that teenage culture is still obsessed with — and actively seeking — experimentation with drugs and altered states? You bet.
If there’s a problem here, that may be it. Chances are, kids who go online seeking a digital high are somewhat more likely than others to seek real drugs in the real world. “Is it for real? I don’t really think so. Is it a major threat? Yeah, in some ways,” Dr. Mitchell Wallick, executive director of C.A.R.E. Florida, an addiction recovery center that specializes in teenage addicts, told a local ABC affiliate. “It now opens the door: ‘I tried this particular i-dose. It’s supposed to make me feel like pot. But how do I know that? Let me try the real thing.'” (More on Time.com: 7 Tips on How to Make Legalizing Marijuana Smart)
In general, though, sites like i-Doser should be among the least of a parent’s worries when it comes to kids and computers. Research shows that there are negative real-world consequences of computer use, on brain and behavior, in kids who grow up digital — constantly tethered to their cell phones, computers, iPads, TVs and video games. It’s digital addiction of a different kind.