Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Now, Take Your Drugs Aurally

Sound can have very powerful effects on people, but can it really get you high? Thats what makers of the application I-Doser would have you believe—or specifically, that different ‘biaural beats’ can mimic the effects of alcohol, cocaine, heroin and other drugs (although, legally and harmlessly.) Obviously, I had to test this.

The makers of I-Doser allow free downloads of the program plus the ‘alcohol’ beat, and charge for the other intoxicating tunes. I downloaded the program. The 10 best sellers, according to the above page, are: Peyote, Ecstasy, Trip, Marijuana, Orgasm,, Lucid Dream, LSD, Cocaine.

I downloaded the program, which included the free ‘alcohol’ simulation and had the following description:

Alcohol
Recreational (Moderate)
35 Minutes

Liquor. Spirits. Beer. Wine. Alcohol is one of the most common strong psychoactives used by humans. It has a long history of use and its intoxicating effects are well studied and documented: relaxation, mood lift, happiness, giddiness, talkativeness, lowered inhibitions, reduced social anxiety, and analgesia. Our alcohol dose is like shot gunning five glasses of gin, in force. The effects come on strong, but mellow fast, and ease into a condition of relaxation flightiness and overexcitement. Some have even experienced pure drunkenness from a single dose. Best of all, no hangover.

Sounds intriguing, at the least. So I began to listen to the 35 minute track, which began as a type of static-y white noise. Although it did cause me to ‘tune-out’ (I listen to white noise to fall asleep, so I might be primed for this), I found it so distracting and monotonous that I had to turn it off after a six or seven minutes. I certainly was not feeling drunken, though. So perhaps the testimonials of those who did experience the effects of the corresponding drug might be benefitting from a healthy placebo effect, although since I was unable to experience the other ‘doses’ I cannot give my opinion about their effects. Safe to say that the brain chemistry resultant from cocaine or alcohol differs markedly from ones that could be induced by listening to a manufactured tone, but its a fun (and free) little experiment nevertheless.

Hat tip Marco. Via Downloadsquad.

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    February 6, 2008

    What kind of trip is “Trip”, since both LSD and peyote are listed separately?

    Personally, I don’t usually drink alcohol primarily for it’s psycho-active effects anyway…

    I’m also curious as to whether the people writing the testimonials have ever actually taken the drugs in question for real. The testimonials for “Ecstacy” and “LSD” don’t sound much like the real things, but they do sound similar to what someone who’d never taken them might think they were like based on the usual folklore. It’s also noticeable that almost all of the testimonials read like they were written by the same person… And no-one was dissappointed that I can see.

  2. #2 speedwell
    February 6, 2008

    How is this different from music therapy exactly, except that it largely leaves out the music? I never used recreational drugs…well, I do have a glass of wine now and then but I don’t like feeling drunk… but I know that I can change my mood in specific ways by listening to certain music.

    As a classical pianist and choir singer with a history of neglected mood problems, I notice that the therapeutic effect specifically on depression is strengthened when I play a piece I’m not 100% proficient on… it doesn’t make me happier per se, it just makes me less susceptible to feeling sorry for myself. The helpful effect on anxiety in particular is especially marked when I’m in choir rehearsal. The difference between the two effects has got to be social in nature, something to do with a community effort involving focused attention; I get precisely the same effect on anxiety when I attend a silent Quaker meeting. Czikszentmihaly’s euphoric “flow” effect is not really involved in the piano case; I only get that when I know the piece perfectly. I don’t think serotonin is necessarily involved; when I was on Zoloft one summer, the effect on my mood was energy-dampening rather than energy-diverting. If you know what I mean.

    Anyway, I call “woo” on the I-Doser.

  3. #3 Shelley Batts
    February 6, 2008

    I certainly agree with your points on music and how it has the potential to alter moods, although this is more like noise than music. After listening again, I understood better what the ‘alcohol’ sounds were supposed to induce–sensory deprivation. After listening to white monotonous noise for 35 minutes it might be that you are tranced into an under-stimulated state, but its still a far cry from being *drunk* (and the other drugs which induce euphoria would be even more difficult to fake).

  4. #4 Dunc
    February 6, 2008

    I must admit, as someone with a pretty wide-ranging experience of mind-altering drugs (both legal and illegal), I’m curious to give this a try. And to see if they publish negative testimonials… ;)

    I’m not sure that I’m prepared to hand over cash to find out though.

  5. #5 Kagehi
    February 6, 2008

    Wonder if this is even worth sending in to MythBusters? lol

  6. #6 Damien
    February 6, 2008

    This could be tested, easily, with a simple double blind.

  7. #7 lucid dreams
    February 6, 2008

    Binaural beats can be used to help induce lucid dreams. I notice that the “lucid dream” version is listed as quite popular.

    Not a lot of people know that the I-doser is based on software called ‘sbagen’ which is open source, downloadable software that you can use to generate your own audio sequences.

    Look it up on sourceforge.

    While we’re at it, lucid dream information can be found at

    http://howtoluciddream.wordpress.com/

    Cheers.

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 7, 2008

    I wonder what Orac’s take on this would be?

  9. #9 Doug
    February 7, 2008

    Hi Shelly,

    CBS Evening News [7 FEB] had two interesting stories on treatment and genetics that are only tangentially related to your post:

    1 – A ‘Holy Grail’ Of Healing from University of Pittsburgh Center for Regenerative Medicine.

    2 – Where’d Ya Get Those Baby Blues? from University of Copenhagen alleging one common ancestor. “The first blue eyed person was probably born near the Black Sea just 10,000 years ago when the entire population of the world was less than 50,000.”

  10. #10 Lab Lemming
    February 7, 2008

    If only you had also gotten into the habit of drinking yourself to sleep…

  11. #11 daksya
    February 8, 2008

    I’ll try out the software, but binaural beats can indeed psychomodulate. Years ago, I put on sbagen a few hours into the comedown off 2C-I. And behold, visual breathing appeared, and lasted about 30-40 seconds after taking the headphones off. And resumed after another “dose”. I’ve never tried binaural beats on their own, so don’t know whether standalone entrainment has interesting effects.

  12. #12 Chris
    April 29, 2012

    I tried biaural beats and initially found them relaxing. Probably more from being like “white noise” than any effect on brain waves.

    Relaxing in the same way that listening to particular pieces of music dozens and dozens of times … the familiarity of the stimulus being the main cause of the effect.

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