More than anything, they want you to believe that digital drugs are the secret to an inside world: download an “i-doser”, kick back with some headphones, listen to some “strange brainwave frequencies” and trip out. There are i-dosers claiming to simulate the effects of recreational drugs including acid, ecstasy, speed and marijuana.
Digital drugs seem logical: drugs alter brainwaves, so it should be a simple matter of recreating those brainwaves to have a drug-like experience. So can you rail out on some hard trip with digital drugs like you can with the real thing? Let’s consider weed…
Binary Weed: The Case of Digital Marijuana
Creating the effects of a drug like marijuana with binaural beat frequencies is a pipe dream. Binaual beat frequencies work by entraining the brain to naturally occurring brain states such as the Delta, Theta, Alpha or Beta brainwave patterns. Entrainment is highly influential on brain states, but binaural beat induced brain entrainment lacks the “trippin’ balls” power of a chemical process.
Consuming marijuana has the effect of slightly increasing alpha-wave activity in your brain. Alpha waves are generally associated with meditative and relaxed states, which are, in turn, associated with creativity. While an i-doser of marijuana will provide a more aware, synchronized, peak-performance alpha brainwave, this bears little comparison to the physiological response to the sensations experienced while consuming marijuana.
Certainly, brainwaves can be measured and then reproduced with binaural beats. It is easy business to recreate a heightened alpha-state associated with marijuana consumption, but there is another component to the drug that is completely ignored by the i-doser advocates and fans: the chemical component. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. When consumed, THC disrupts the synchronous firing of brain cells. Interestingly, the overall brain activity actually increases, perhaps explaining the random nature of thoughts generated by use of the drug.
Laurence O. McKinney, Managing Partner of McKinney & Company, wrote the following in a Sep. 18, 2007 email to ProCon.org:
Many neurological effects are ascribed to THC, but a major aspect appears to be rapid release and uptake of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. From a cognitive standpoint, this “magnifies” any thought or sensation by engaging a larger population of neurons for any activity at hand, incidentally triggering the adrenalin release responsible for mild euphoria. A temporary norepinephrine deficit and reaction to the adrenalin then leads to a physical and mental drowsiness until normal levels are restored.
The chemical influence of THC on brain chemistry is profound and has an impact far greater than brainwaves experienced after consuming THC. In fact, the transition of the brainwaves to an alpha state experienced while consuming marijuana is a minor by product of a larger chemical process that simply cannot be reproduced with binaural beats.
The human brain is an extremely complex organ, and it is best not to underestimate the brain’s ability to respond to stimulus of any kind. Binaural beats do effect brain activity, but only in the most subtle way, especially when compared to chemicals that directly stimulate or inhibit brain function. Binaural beats can have a profound effect on mood, awareness and perception, but it is a disservice to put beat frequency entrainment on the same level as drugs that inhibit or interrupt neurotransmitters.