Tripping Through the World of I-Doser
As with anything forbidden, there will always be a level of curiosity that accompanies the existence of controlled substances. Whether it's from the junior high student eyeing his dad's Jack on the rocks or an otherwise law-abiding citizen wondering what cocaine feels like, it's human nature to want to experiment, especially if there are alternatives offering the same experience with no physical or legal risk.
That's where I-Doser, a completely legal software program comes in. By listening to MP3 files purchased from I-Doser's website, users claim to be able to replicate the effects of of drugs, alcohol, and even physical or sexual experiences simply by plugging in a pair of headphones. Though this may sound impossible, I-Doser boasts hundreds of testimonials and trip reports on its website, and a simple web search turns up legions of YouTube videos of loyal users during and after their experiences. With major press starting to take notice and usage increasing every day, a growing body of anecdotal evidence would seem to point to the program holding an actual ability to create altered states.
According to Dr. William Robinson, an assistant professor at the LSU School of Public Health and a PhD in psychology, the overall premise of I-Doser has been around since the late 1800s and is relatively simple. "Under normal waking conditions, [brain activity] will tend to oscillate at around 12 to 30 cycles per second, or hertz. When someone is very relaxed, this pattern slows and the person will begin to show activity [of] 8 to 12 hertz. The thought is that if you play a sound of say 370 hertz in one ear and 378 hertz in the other ear, the brain will perceive the 8 hertz difference and be entertained... to feel very relaxed."
This type of sound, known as a binaural beat, could theoretically be used to tune a user's brain activity to what it would have been if that person had taken a specific drug or had some experience, allowing the brain to reach the same altered state on its own. Nick Ashton, founder of I-Doser, described his product as "a safe, effective, and proven method to achieve a simulated moon or experience in many avenues of life, be it sleep therapy, mood alteration, and many other positive simulations." The MP3, or doses, are also inexpensive: users can try (among other things) an orgasm for $3.95, LSD for $4.50, steroids for $3, or cocaine for $3.75, without ingesting a single chemical or even leaving the house.
If users think that it can work, the experience may be different than for someone who is convinced it won't.
Despite the hundreds of reviews and user reports available online, there is some scientific doubt about I-Doser; specifically its ability to accurately replicate the experiences of the drugs it advertises. "I suspect that this is more marketing than an accurate description of the effects," said Dr. Robinson. "Street drugs... often have very specific effects on a variety of neurotransmitter systems in the user's brain, so it is very unlikely that these effects are being replicated per se." Dr. Robinson did feel it was possible for users to enter into an altered state of consciousness similar to those that are produced by [meditation], hypnosis, or sensory deprivation." There's also a possibility of a placebo effect, though "some studies have shown [binaural beats] to differ from placebo conditions."
For his lot, Ashton feels that the best way to learn about I-Doser is to experience it. "My answer to those that doubt it: try it for yourself," he said. "We offer several free products that can be used to test the effectiveness. If it doesn't work for you, then you don't need to use our products." To help new users, I-Doser's website has very specific instructions and a comprehensive FAQ page to help users maximize effectiveness of their chosen doses. This information is very important since, according to Dr. Robinson, "there are probably a large number of factors that could influence the experience one way or another. Having the wrong kind of equipment, playing them too loud, or being in a distracting environment might all prevent [doses] from working."
It would seem that, at the very least, I-Doser does differ from regular drugs and alcohol in that the experiences are highly subjective, and depend heavily on the equipment and environment that users choose to use them in. With so much conflicting information and so many different variables, it seemed that Ashton was right; the best way to learn about I-Doser is to try it, so I went to the website, downloaded the free player and a free sample does (alcohol), then set things up exactly as recommended.
Getting ready to try I-Doser required a fair amount of planning. After downloading and installing the software, I cued up the alcohol dose and read the listening instructions from I-Doser's FAQ. Since it recommended listening to the MP3 "while lying down in a dim-lit room in solitude without any noisy distractions," I set up some pillows in bed, pulled down the shades, put my phone on vibrate, and plugged in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
I hit the play button and closed my eyes, waiting for something to happen. The dose gradually increased in volume until it had surrounded me in stereo, playing two recurring rhythms at what seemed to be slightly different frequencies in each ear. The sound itself was fairly gentle, and though I could clearly hear it, it had a kind of meditative quality that reminded me of minimalist or ambien electronic music. I kept my mind as clear as I could, and tried to focus on the sounds as much as possible.
Afer 35 minutes, the dose finished so I opened my eyes, removed my headphones, and sat up. I certainly didn't feel as if I'd been drinking for a half hour, so I tried to stand up. I felt completely fine, so I challenged myself by walking toe-to-heel in a straight line, using the hardwood floor of my apartment as a guide. No trouble at all. I also had no problem standing on one foot or reciting my ABCs backwards, and after passing my own miniature field sobriety test, I was forced to conclude I was in a totally unaltered state, except for feeling a little refreshed (which could probably be chalked up to the fact I had laid down for a half hour).
Though I was disappointed that the dose didn't work for me, Dr. Robinson offered a somewhat optimistic view. "I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there is a good deal of variability in the experience, [since] there's a good deal of individual differences in people's ability to meditate or use biofeedback [as well]." He went on to postulate that "expectation effects might also help or hinder the effect. If users think that it can work and are open to the experience, [the effectiveness] might be different than for a person who is convinced that it can't work."
In other words, though the dose didn't work for me, it could mean that I didn't administer it correctly, or that on some level I was closed-minded to the experience (though I really didn't think I was), or my brain simply wasn't susceptible to being altered, and there was no guarantee it wouldn't work for someone else. Considering this, and the fact that Dr. Robinson said binaural beats have "relatively little scientific attention paid to [them]," it would seem that Ashton was right. All a prospective user can really do is try I-Doser, and if it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't.
Upon reflection, though, there is the secondary consideration of the social aspect of altering oneself using alcohol. Even if the dose had worked and I sat up feeling as if I'd been to every bar on Bourbon Street, it would have been because I had not only been laying quietly in my bedroom, but had gone out of my way to minimize the chance of anything interacting with me while I was doing it. Even though my liver would have been able to take the night off, most of the fun of a night out drinking is being with friends, and that is a part of the experience that I-Doser doesn't come close to replicating. Though in fairness, many YouTube videos show two or more users taking the same dose and then enjoying the effects together. Many of the subjects of these videos look to be in their teens. In other words, though I-Doser wouldn't seem like it would ever be a perfect replica of having a few drinks, it might be an appealing alternative for those that can't drink, or who aren't able to (for instance, because of an alcohol allergy).
Either way, for those that doubt I-Doser, Nick pointed to the hundreds of testimonials on its site, and was also quick to defend his product. "Most have focused on the negative connotations to drug use, [but] we are a positive company, and support our users who have achieved some positive life results."