A new and disturbing form of addiction has hit the landscape bearing potential for serious consequences. Digital drugs, more accurately referred to as binaural beats, are defined as sounds thought to be “capable of changing brain wave patterns and inducing an altered state of consciousness.” While this tool has been shown to help the listener achieve a deep state of meditation, there are some companies who have marketed their sound combinations to mimic the effect of hard drugs.
These particular "digital drugs" are also completely legal, often free and have no age requirement. Nick Ashton, the owner of I-Doser.com, has been reported to say that his company is “not dangerous, completely safe, but any user should be aware that this is causing a modification of mood.” Though his site offers a wide collection of binaural beats for feel-good vibes, it also has a “Recreational Simulations” packet for marijuana, cocaine, opium and peyote that “will synchronize your brainwaves to the same state as the recreational dose.” Whether or not they truly simulate the effects of the substances, the existence and marketing of these audio files is a disturbing trend that can be especially enticing to teens who spend much of their time on the web.
How It Began
Binaural beats were originally created with good intentions and benefit many recovering addicts today. The science was intended to help alleviate disorders such as insomnia, ADHD, anxiety and other cerebral ailments. The researchers’ goal was to develop binaural sound combinations to help control the electrical musical impulses in the brain by forcing it to synchronize its brain waves. The same process has also helped form the basis for many types of meditation and medical biofeedback therapy.
Technically speaking, binaural beats occur when two tones with slightly different frequencies are played together. Without headphones, one can listen to it and feel no effect. However, listening with headphone on isolates the binaural tones from each other, enabling the listener to hear each frequency clearly in a different ear. Simply put, the binaural beats get delivered in two tones at different frequencies and at separate times. One beat goes in one ear while the other beat goes in the other ear. As a result, the brain detects the slight difference between the frequencies and interprets the rhythmic beats as electrical impulses.
When a Good Thing Goes Bad
Addiction specialists have mixed opinions on digital drugs. Often referred to as “i-dosing” (in which the letter “i” stands for “internet”), some believe experimenting with digital drugs is a step toward experimenting with actual addictive substances.
Treatment for any form of internet addiction is still relatively new. Experts are still exploring possible methods for treating disorders related to technology, as they are recent developments in the mental health and addiction field. At this point, it’s also highly impractical to have an individual agree to completely abstain from technology.
With that said, preliminary discussions regarding treatment for digital drugs include the following:
- Setup Website Blockers. This may help the short-term, but it’s not a fool-proof solution as new sites crop up on a regular basis.
- Inpatient treatment. The rehabilitation process may be useful, but avoiding the internet will be a monumental challenge when they reenter daily life.
- Support groups. Gathering people who are trying to recover from the same addiction is a potentially effective method for digital drug users to curb their use.
- Recovery programs similar to existing substance abuse programs. Treating digital addiction similar to other addictions may be beneficial. This includes starting with a “digital” detox and developing strategies to monitor use along with identifying triggers and preventing relapse through one-on-one counseling sessions.