Soundwaves: Pairing Cannabis With Binaural Beats
I stumbled upon binaural beats a few months back as I was lying awake one midnight trying to force sleep. After tossing and turning for what felt like an eternity, I fired up my laptop in defeat and typed a quick Google search: “fast ways to fall asleep.” I was then directed to a curious phenomenon called binaural beats – the method of combining two different tones on separate wavelengths (usually with noise-cancelling headphones at hand) in order to create an auditory hallucination.
Apparently, when set to proper frequencies, these tones may induce relaxation, creativity, lucid dreaming, and a number of other behaviors from a simple combination of sounds. Some – well, most – consider binaural beats to be a basic placebo effect when held to their lucid dreaming capabilities, and the phenomenon is hardly taken seriously in the medical field for its supposed anti-anxiety properties.
Evidence in favor of binaural beats and their reaction in the brain is murky at best, but with thousands of uploaded videos across YouTube (and millions of views and listens), they seem to be a popular choice for those needing to escape reality with vivid dreams, or maintain better focus during work or school.
The possibility of inducing lucid dreams piqued my curiosity most while reading personal accounts of binaural beats effects – so much so that I ended up popping on my own noise-cancelling headphones to give binaural beats a try. The result? I now frequently listen to binaural beats for at least an hour before bed every other night.
Admittedly, they work for me – I don’t lucid dream per se, but I definitely experience extremely vivid dreams, which I had never had before. Many of these dreams I remember well the next day, and even into the following week. Sometimes fantastical things occur; other times, I just sit and have conversations with people I haven’t seen in a very long time.
Interestingly, I was never a dreamer prior to listening to binaural beats (or, if I was, I never remembered), so if this is all a coincidence, it’s a pretty unique and fun one. Sometimes I’m excited to fall asleep just to see what my dreams will be.
Where Did Binaural Beats Come From?
In 1973, biophysicist Dr. Gerald Oster published “Auditory Beats in the Brain,” where he studied the physical effects of binaural beats. Oster was highly interested in experimental and fringe theories, so binaural beats were right up his alley. His study was inspired by Heinrich W. Dove, a Prussian physicist and meteorologist who was similarly interested in experimental science and first discovered binaural beats in 1839. Dove found that the human capability to hear binaural beats was a form of evolutionary adaptation.
As explained by Oster, “What is the neurological basis of binaural beats? The simplest explanation is that the number of nerve impulses from each ear and the route they travel to the brain are determined by the frequency of the incident sound, and that the two nerve signals interact somewhere in the brain.” These ‘interactions’ seem to be what causes vivid dreaming or creativity – in short, the confusion of the ear firing connections in the brain.
It’s important to note that Oster did not study the dream or relaxation states of his patients while they listened to binaural beats; only auditory frequencies and how they were heard by his subjects. The conclusions of binaural beats’ effects on behavioral issues have mostly come from the educated guesses of observers who are not scientists, but who regularly engage in binaural beats sessions.
During his study, Oster also found that certain people could not pick up binaural beats tones the same way others could. He states, “It may be significant that some of those who could not hear the beats suffered from Parkinson’s disease,” though there is no follow up as to why that might occur for Parkinson’s patients. Oster also observed differences in how the sexes hear binaural beats:
“It appears that some women do show marked variations in the perception of binaural beats during the menstrual cycle. When the beats are not heard, the women often hear two separate tones. Men, on the other hand, show no variation during the month. These results suggest that the binaural-beat spectrum may be influenced by the level of estrogen in the blood.”
Years later, in 2007, the National College of Natural Medicine published a study on binaural beats and how they relate to the mentality of human subjects. It concluded, “Binaural beat technology may exhibit positive effect on self-reported psychologic measures, especially anxiety.”
The conclusion warrants skepticism and stronger belief in a placebo effect being at play, especially when psychological elements were “self-reported” before the study. However, the college’s study was steeped in behavioral outcomes which is what listeners mostly cling to; Oster’s study, by contrast, focused on physical outcomes.
There are other studies that have been performed involving behavior and binaural beats, but they all come to similar conclusions and hardly any seem to move from a ‘pilot stage’ – either the funding runs out or interest is low.
Later, the National College of Natural Medicine ran another study on binaural beats effects, and found that “There was an increase of the Profile of Mood States depression subscale in the experimental condition relative to the control condition. There was also a significant decrease in immediate verbal memory recall in the experimental condition compared to control condition.”
Yet these negative conclusions are a far cry from personal accounts linked to binaural beats. On any dedicated binaural beats YouTube channel, for instance, one can easily find hundreds of reports of positive and active lucid dreaming or relaxation from its users.
Pairing Cannabis with Relaxing Beats
I wrote this article because I have experienced the vivid dreaming that comes with listening to binaural beats, and I have read accounts of people pairing binaural beats with cannabis to either better focus on meditation or to bring about stronger and longer dreams. I wanted to give that pairing a shot and see for myself what type of effect cannabis would have on my own binaural beats sessions. I also wanted to encourage others to give it a try, especially those who already listen to binaural beats and have been curious about complementing the beats with cannabis as I was.
Since I had a bit of extra indica-heavy Lavender lying around, I took a few hits, switched on one of my favorite binaural beats sleeping tracks (below), and proceeded to melt into my bed.
Lo and behold, the experiment didn’t go as I had hoped – I couldn’t fully shut off my mind as I usually can when I listen to binaural beats without the influence of cannabis. I was thinking about everything, yet nothing in particular. My brain seemed to be more awake than usual, and I actually had a bit more trouble falling asleep.
Riding on the powerful placebo effect that I have presumably been experiencing from day one with binaural beats, I wanted it to really shine during my cannabis pairing; instead, it seemed to fall flat. My dreams were, dishearteningly, unmemorable, although I do know I had at least one. Of course, it’s important to factor marijuana’s tendency to inhibit dreams into any expectations.
Even if binaural beat-induced dreams weren’t everything I hoped they would be, something else did intrigue me while listening: I felt I was hearing the beats in a unique rhythm that I hadn’t heard while listening with a sober mind. It was as though I was more in tune and picking up on sounds I had otherwise shut out. With that in mind, I could definitely see binaural beats being a useful tool to incorporate into certain types of meditation, even if they’re mostly seen as a flamboyant sibling to regular old white noise. I’m also also curious to see if the more creative and focused binaural tracks would pair well with an energetic, sativa-dominant strain.
If you’re interested in trying binaural beats paired with different strains of cannabis, I certainly recommend doing so to see what happens. Experiences will likely vary for each individual, and you may well end up getting a better night’s sleep than ever, or experiencing an unexpected bump in creative flow.
Have you tried pairing binaural beats with cannabis? Share your experiences in the comments!
Learn the history and details of binaural beats, listen to a few examples, and find cannabis strains that can enhance the experience.
Listening to These Beats Supposedly Gets You High. We Try Them
Acquiring drugs takes a lot of effort. You’ve got to source your connect, arrange an exchange, drive somewhere inconvenient or sketchy, and then have a vaguely uncomfortable interaction with a dealer before handing them your money. And the stuff you get might be bunk. It’s a crapshoot out there.
But there’s another option for getting stoned, and you can download it. Binaural beats are precisely-designed audio tracks that claim to get you high by inducing the brainwave associated with particular controlled substances. It’s totes legal.
Predicated on the notion that binaural brainwaves are responsible for every conceivable state of consciousness, the tracks supposedly sync brainwaves to make you feel fine.
Here’s how it purportedly works: Different frequencies enter the head through the right and left ears, meet in the middle of the brain (approximately), and create a new, third frequency vibration — the binauaral beat. These synchronized brainwaves are associated with a variety of meditative and hypnogogic states.
But, can they really get you high?
To find out, I headed to idoseraudio.com, where a variety of binaural beat-laden tracks are available for download. The website’s extensive online catalog offers packages including “prescription doses,” “sexual doses,” “sports doses” and loftier experiences like “sacred doses.” (Also available are auditory knockoffs of absinthe, ayahuasca and oxycontin.)
Veering away from the “overdose” option, I selected the “quick hits” package that included marijuana, cocaine, peyote, ecstasy, acid and orgasm, which, considering the number of people who go to rehab for sex addiction, is now apparently considered a drug. The package was $13 and the accompanying informational guide was $10.
The manual stressed that, just like most drug experiences, the environment in which one listens to the tracks is fundamentally important in creating their intended effect. The recommendation was to find a quiet space free from distractions and lie down comfortably with your eyes closed while listening to the beats on headphones. The headphones are fundamentally important, as they are the only way to properly deliver the two distinct beats into each ear.
So, in the middle of the workday, I closed the curtain, turned off my phone, got comfortable on the couch, closed my eyes and went on sonic bender. It went like this:
Acid: Each track is layered with the beats — which are barely perceptible because of their ultra-low frequencies — and accompanied by a sort of white noise and a layer of either music or other sound effects.
The acid track featured the sounds of a moon landing, complete with two guys talking over radios about stuff like geo-samples, “sailing into the sun” and other trip-type double entendres. The effect of this ten minutes of ambient noise was a mellow, meditative, and slightly spaced out feeling of deep relaxation. Physically, the track made me feel slightly dizzy. While there was no visual element, there were a few times when I thought, “Oh wow, this is so beautiful.” Just like while on actual acid.
Cocaine: This track produced a very pleasant all over tinging sensation in my body and kind of made me want to dance, which seems approximately correct in terms of mimicking the effects of actual cocaine. The second half of the audio slowed down into a sort of sexy synth groove, which didn’t take away the overall energized sensation, but did create a sort of “late night coke den” vibe. All of these sensations went away the moment the track ended.
Ecstacy: This most noticeable (and somewhat distracting) element of this track was the sound of two people having sex, complete with eventual climax and what sounded like spanking. A lot of spanking. Did I get the feeling of all-encompassing universal love and cosmic interconnectedness generally facilliated by good MDMA? No, not really. Was it sexy? For sure, but less in the way that deep, meaningful intimacy is sexy and more in the way that watching porn is sexy. If there was a track to get addicted to though, this would be it.
Marijuana: The definitive element of this track was a loud, low buzzing played over ambient white noise. Overall, it made me extremely relaxed and sort of sleepy. Just like with actual weed, but sans the dry mouth and eventual desire to eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Peyote: By far the most minimal of the audio tracks; the peyote sounded like interstellar-inspired ambient noise with a desert windstorm blowing over the top of it. Again, it didn’t feel like drugs, but it was trippy and definitely put my brain in what very much felt like the famed “alpha” state of mental relaxation, which is reputedly the launch point for the development of psychic powers and next level creative prowess. No idea if that’s what actual peyote is like.
Orgasm: As with the “ecstasy,” it was difficult to ascertain if the beats were actually manipulating my brainwaves or if it was the the prolonged sounds of sexual moaning that led to feelings of general arousal. In any case, I fell asleep just after this track was finished, so go figure.
Conclusion: While binaural beats are cheaper, safer and easier to get than real drugs, they definitely don’t get you high the same way. They did, however, facilitate real feelings of meditative calm with periods of overt sexiness and overall clearheadedness, which can be part of drug experiences. Plus each track can be played over and over, making it so that you won’t have to page your dealer desperately at 4 am anymore.
Acquiring drugs takes a lot of effort. You've got to source your connect, arrange an exchange, drive somewhere inconvenient or sketchy, and then have a vaguely uncomfortable interaction with a dealer before handing them your money. And the stuff you get might be bunk. It's a crapshoot out there. See…