The phony threat of “i-Dosing”

When it comes to the promotion of ridiculous ‘threats to our children,’ no-one beats the mainstream media. Take this latest civilization ender, the pastime known as i-Dosing.

Here’s how it works, as described by Wired:

i-dosing involves donning headphones and listening to “music” — largely a droning noise — which [Web sites] peddling the sounds promise will get you high. Teens are listening to such tracks as “Gates of Hades,” which is available on YouTube gratis (yes, the first one is always free).

Those who want to get addicted to the “drugs” can purchase tracks that will purportedly bring about the same effects of marijuana, cocaine, opium and peyote. While street drugs rarely come with instruction manuals, potential digital drug users are advised to buy a 40-page guide so that they learn how to properly get high on MP3s.

Oklahoma’s Mustang Public School district isn’t taking the threat lightly, and sent out a letter to parents warning them of the new craze. The educators have gone so far as to ban iPods at school, in hopes of preventing honor students from becoming cyber-drug fiends, News 9 reports.

The tracks the teens are downloading contain what are known as binaural beats, usually masked under a loud drone. A slightly different tone is played in each hear, which causes the listener to perceive a third, middle tone, originating in his head. (It’s often experienced as a fast, rattling beat, hence the name.) This phenomenon has been known and studied for almost two hundred years, and clinicians use binaural beats for a variety of purposes.

But will they get you high? Not even close. Here’s the generally-gullible Daily Mail:

Dr. Helane Wahbeh, a Naturopathic Physician and Clinician Researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University…. denied there was any possibility that someone could experience similar effects to cocaine or ecstasy.

She said: ‘We did a small controlled study with four people, and we did not see any brain wave activity shifting to match the binaural beat that people were listening to.

So if that’s true, then what’s going on with the teenagers? There are two factors at play here. First, listening to any kind of high volume, repetitive beat for an extended period of time will produce in the listener a feeling of euphoria or intoxication. Our tribal ancestors discovered this themselves, using drum, dance and chant to reach altered states of consciousness. We continue that tradition today at rock concerts and dance clubs.

Second, this is a fine example of the power of suggestion. Teens are expecting a high, and have that belief reinforced through YouTube videos and listener testimonials. Throw in a healthy dose of teenage insecurity — “If everyone else gets high from listening to this, then there’s something wrong with me if I don’t” — and you’ve got a perfectly reasonable explanation for the phenomenon of i-Dosing.

Brian Saint-Paul


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)