i-Dosing – Is It Really Possible To Get A ‘Digital High’ From Music?

Mephedrone? That’s so 2009. The Daily Mail has a new teenage moral panic in its sights: i-Dosing.

It might sound like a Chris Morris-style hoax (remember Cake?), but the Mail are convinced this supposed craze – basically a way of listening to music in a way that messes pleasurably with your mind – is a genuine threat to the nation’s youth, since it mimics the effects of Ecstasy.


Said one rent-a-quote ‘expert’ on the perils of i-Dosing: “If you want to… save these kids and keep these kids safe, parents have to be aware. They’ve got to take action.”

So, er, what is it? And, more importantly, does it work?

Well, clearly i-Dosing is a hoax to some extent – the kids in this news report are obviously taking the piss – but there’s also an element of actual science to it. It does have an effect, just not a very dramatic one.

The truth is, i-Dosing is a hobby that’s mildly antisocial rather than dangerous, involving listening to noises through headphones to induce a high, but without drugs.

Of course, the worry is that long-term i-Dosing could be a gateway to harder and harder noises: if not caught early your children could be breaking into factories to get their fix of heavy machinery, or lurking outside the bedrooms of heavy snorers.

It supposedly works using binaural beats – a real thing that happens in your brain when you listen to a different frequency in each ear. Your brain tries to make a rhythm out of the difference between the two frequencies, and in doing so tries to synchronise with it. Basically, if Aphex Twin tried to make a relaxation CD, this is what would come out.

I gave binaural beats a try using a free sample from one of the sites selling tracks, and filmed what happened to see whether I’d freak out or not, as a few kids on YouTube have done. I also had a go at making a track myself and had a go at explaining how to do it.


The one I chose to listen to claimed to be good for creativity and inducing visions. It had, like the rest, masked the frequencies using a really annoying sound. In this case it was the sound of a roomful of Americans all talking at once, while the background buzz – the bit that actually tries to affect your brain – sounded like a constant electrical hum. The resulting vision was one of Times Square being sick.

Did it work? Well, despite being a really annoying sound, the 15 minutes slipped by so quickly that it must have had some sort of effect. Afterwards I felt more alert and a bit buzzy, and I reckon with a bit of experimentation it might actually be quite effective.

Some tracks probably are unpleasant – especially ones with names like ‘Gates Of Hades’ – but there’s no way they’re more dangerous than self-hypnosis. The bottom line? i-Dosing it not really like a drug at all – it’s just the brilliant fucked-up power of your own brain at work.