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I Tried Digital Drugs and This is What Happened

In a world where speed and availability are king, one might turn to a streaming website to get high instead of the usual drug dealer. But then, if music can act as a mood changer, what are the side effects?

We live in a world where speed and availability dictate our consumption of goods and services. A world where food, travel, communication, dating, gaming, and even sleeping are sped up to increase what one can accommodate into their day. A world where demand dictates supply and availability, with substitutes for products that are not available popping up on a daily basis.

Even with narcotics and illegal substances, once a demand for a product exists you can always be sure that someone will come about and supply it, or at least provide a substitute. In the case of narcotics that are not available to aspiring consumers who create the demand for these products and would settle for a substitute, a new era in digital technology emerges: a medium to transport drugs over the internet via streaming services.

Digital drugs are real; they do exist, and some of them do in fact work. I would know – I tried them.

My first thought when I heard of digital drugs was, “Do these really work?” Well, the science behind it – although not exact or precise – does prove that digital drugs work. Through audio and video, the user is subjected to sound frequencies and images that alter consciousness, making the user feel high.

I put the science to the test, did my homework, and found out that some of these tracks – these videos of sound frequencies and trippy visuals – actually can cause addiction, epilepsy, and develop long-term mental disorders if abused by the user. I grabbed my headphones and followed the instructions.The instructions on the YouTube video I picked said to use stereo headphones; check. To pick a secluded and calm space; I sat on the roof of my apartment in the relatively quiet neighbourhood of Dokki. To listen for at least 15 minutes; I cleared my immediate schedule. I lied down as per the instructions, put on my headphones, placed my laptop parallel to my head on the ground, and stared into the visuals. By minute five I felt nothing; I kept on listening and staring into the screen.

The sound that is getting you high is actually two different pure-tone sine waves, with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, presented to a listener from the headphones, one sound through each ear - what is known as a binaural beat.

With that in mind, I felt at ease as I approach the 10 minute mark – then I started feeling something. It’s not a high per se, but more like an intense feeling of relaxation, and the sound playing in my ear started to feel as if it's resonating through my entire body. At one moment I lost track of time; it was that very moment that an intense surge of energy developing from my ear took over my entire body, coming in waves. The more I would try to stop it – or block it, really – it would increase. I took off my headphones. 

The feeling was intense; in no way was this a placebo effect. I tried it again just to be sure, this time with a different drug (as in, different video), and it was different. A still image, but the binaural beat was playing beneath a song. I was leaving work, so I played it as I walked through the courtyard of The GrEEK Campus in Downtown Cairo and found myself feeling the same surge of energy but with a certain sense of euphoria coming over me. By the time I reached the main gate - this time I didn't take my headphones off - I was crossing the street to hail a cab and the energy surge stopped, but the euphoria lingered.

It’s a very ethereal high with digital drugs; it doesn’t cause toxicity, hence it is fleeting. It’s not a dose that, once you consume, will induce its effects. It’s more of a certain mood that once you reach activates this feeling, a sudden surge of energy that extends for as long as you can sustain it. This isn’t new to us; music in all its different types does that. Songs can engage emotions, and later moods; they rile up the senses and put the listener into a state of trance.

Its effect on your body is not harmful but, in the Gulf, where drug laws are strictly enforced, teens are heading to digital drugs and, in effort to curb that demand, the government issued warnings against them. The only true danger of digital drugs is that they can lead the user to other forms of drugs once their high subdues. It is the same danger of a poem, or a movie, a song, or a speech. Rather than the use of the material itself leading to harm, it's the induction and inebriation into the world of altering one’s mood for pleasure.