I-Doser | Will specially tuned tones get you high?


Could headphones be the newest tool for getting high? Image: Wikimedia Commons

A spate of recent stories warning parents of the dangers of I-Dosers are raising concerns over this “newest” digital high. Making use of the theory of binaural beats, I-Dosers supposedly induce an altered state of consciousness. Experts question the effectiveness of I-Dosers, though some people swear by them.

What is an I-Doser?

The theory behind I-Dosers is relatively simple. Binaural beats were first discovered in 1839 by a German physicist — Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. A Binaural beat is when two tones are played at slightly different frequencies in each ear. In theory, these beats alter brain waves and change the state of consciousness of the listener. CDs and MP3 files sold for I-Doser claim different beats can have the same effects as alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine or a variety of other drugs. I-Doser “doses” are sold for anywhere from $2 to $15 apiece, though they can also be found free many places.

Do I-Dosers actually work?

Many wonder if these I-Doser tones actually work. The answer is — maybe. Small scientific studies have been carried out and found I-Dosers have no effect. User videos on YouTube abound, and it seems that many claim that I-Doser doses do change how they feel. The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle. The placebo effect can be very strong, especially for people that really want an I-Doser to have an effect. At the same time, I-Doser style binaural beats are used by scientists in sleep studies and other altered-consciousness studies. In the end, I-Dosers may have some effect — especially if you want them to (and even more so if you have paid for them).

Are I-Dosers dangerous?

The biggest concern of many parents (and news reporters) seem to be that the “digital high” of I-Dosers could lead down a dark path. The Daily Mail claims that I-Dosers are the new “gateway drug.” NPR quoted several stories worried about the effects of this “drug.” The conclusion is, though, is that I-Dosers are not, in and of themselves, dangerous. Humans have a natural tendency to try to alter their state of consciousness. Even if I-Dosers do have an effect, they are no more of a “gateway drug” than smoking banana peels. If you or your teens enjoy the placebo effect of an I-Doser session, then why not lay back and relax to a free binaural beat?

See competing I-Doser tests

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