There is an undeniable relationship between sound and our mood. Music can amp a person up for a workout or calm a person down when they are stressed.
But can sound actually get someone high?
Sonic drugs – also known as “digital drugs” or “i-dosing” are available online. I-dosing websites claim that listening to specific sound can make someone feel as if they’ve taken actual drugs. They sell “doses” of recreational drugs, like marijuana, as well as prescription drugs and hallucinogens.
Sonic drugs work through binaural beats -- the playing of two slightly different tones and frequencies into both ears simultaneously.
“What you are experiencing is the sound created by the brain, not what is coming through the headphones,” said Alex Doman, founder of Advanced Brain Technologies and co-author of “Healing at the Speed of Sound.”
Doman said there are legitimate and proven uses of sound therapy in treating anxiety and improving brain performance. However, trying to mimic neurochemical effects of a narcotic is a dubious notion -- something that needs to be approached with caution and a healthy dose of skepticism.
“Dialing into a specific effect of peyote mushrooms or LSD is probably taking it too far,” Doman added.
Youtube has over a thousand videos of people documenting their experiences with i-dosing.
Sixteen year old "Zach" is currently in rehab at Tarzana Treatment Center for his addiction to real drugs. He believes experimenting with sonic drugs may make some teens more inclined to do the real thing.
This is what concerns addiction specialist Gregory Smith.
“It’s not like you listen to an i-dose for crack cocaine and the next day you’re smoking a crack pipe,” Dr. Smith said. “But I do think that if you have an impressionable 13-14 year old kid that does an i-dose, it may drop their inhibition if they’re presented with the real drug to try it.”
NBC4 Anchor Colleen Williams Listens to an I-Dose
NBC4 anchor Colleen Williams’ brain waves were measured while she listened to an i-dose of alcohol during a visit to Amen Clinics.
The alcohol dose takes 35 minutes. The website says the experience is like “shot gunning five glasses of gin.”
The first thing Williams noticed was the sound itself. It is nothing like music, but rather static-like tones.
After about 10 minutes, she says she started to feel a “light-headed kind of euphoria.” After a few more minutes, her hands got tingly and light.
Eventually Williams says the sound became annoying and gave her a headache. She says she never felt drunk but she was definitely affected by the i-dose.
“I felt at one point, if I stood up, I would be a little wobbly,” Williams said.
Williams’ brain waves were then interpreted by brain imaging expert and psychiatrist Daniel Amen.
“We could actually see that the ID was having an effect on your brain,” Amen said. “At times your brain was calmer but at other times is was firing more erratically.”
Amen stresses that every brain will respond differently to this kind of stimulus and the reaction could be dangerous.
For Williams the part of the brain that was affected was the part associated with seizure activity and “that can be troubling.”
Amen also says i-dosing can be especially dangerous for teenagers because their brain is still not fully developed and that anything done to a developing brain could disrupt it.