Huffing Internet

DRUGS ISSUE: Surfing the I-doser seas and seizures

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Don't push pause 'til you get there: a screen grab from an I-dose vid

caitlin@sfbg.com

DRUGS Remember those elementary school sleepovers when you'd pin your friend's throat against the wall so they could experience a few moments of sweet, sweet asphyxiation? The heady realization that you could easily make yourself feel really weird, in an almost-good way? Well, that brilliant brand of adolescent inanity is back, and this time, it's on the Internet! Enter I-dosing — binaural beats stripped from the Enya, trance, and Pearl Jam albums (sometimes accompanied by tacky Op art visuals) so that nerdy teens can pretend they're doing something bad.

Bubble-headed hyperventilators on the local evening news have already declared a new drug menace. "Kelly, parents really need to listen up on this one," warned one lushly coiffed correspondent recently on Oklahoma City's News9, opening a sequence that cobbled together hilarious footage those crazy I-dosers posted of themselves. Headphone-clad teens — in blindfolds! — curling into balls, spastically clenching their muscles in the rec room. It doesn't look like much fun, but when has that ever stopped anyone from trying to get high on the cheap?

Subsequent studies have shown that these tracks, basically a pair of tones played simultaneously at slightly different frequencies, aren't really melting your face. No detectable variance in brainwaves was detected while listeners were I-dosing into insanity. But long-term experiments are turning up interesting results — daily use of the tracks (which start around 99 cents on Amazon), which have names like "Demerol," "Peyote," "Orgasm," and the more benign "Quick Happy," "Confidence," and "Brain+," can produce overall reductions in anxiety and other slightly positive effects.

That, and my parents are afraid of it? No brainer! For the sake of Guardian readers, who obviously don't do drugs of any bandwidth, I dove into the search engine to try.

The bad: there's a bewildering array of I-dose options. I went straight for the free stuff, the files that have been converted to YouTube video. Granted, these aren't at the same sound quality as the $200 I-dosing tracks you can buy on such sites as www.i-doser.com — but no one's footing that bill, lemme tell ya.

"Gates of Hades" seems to be the most downloaded of the bunch. And while I didn't quite witness the "death and destruction" promised by its creators, I did rip out my headphones when the sounds, which began with a steady, grinding noise that made me want to vomit, then switched jarringly into a key more apt to rupture my ear drums. If we're going to be faking trips, can we at least choose a good trip? You'd think the nervous Nellies out there would want kids to think drugs were like this.

The good: Some of the more mellow I-doses produced a pleasantly confusing buzz — like being happy at a sober rave. The free ones accompanied by visuals got me slightly out of my head, at least, with whirling circles, throbbing triangles, and jouncing animated penguins. I may not have experienced Timothy Leary-esque cosmic transcendence, but after a couple minutes of staring at my pulsating screen, my pupils got nice and Google-y. No dramatic seizures, though.

Conclusion: buy a Magic Eye book.

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