Digital Drugs Don’t Work, But #ASMR Can Give You Tingles

Can listening to a girl brushing her hair give you a head orgasm? Erm, yes actually. For some people.


by Stevie Martin |
Updated on

You no doubt saw, that earlier this month, the Saudian Arabian government banned 'digital drugs' in a fit of hysteria over the rising number of people trying to get their rocks off (in a drug way, not a sex way) to binaural music. So naturally, I wanted to see what the craic was. And if it was comparable to actual crack - although, to be honest, I've never smoked crack so this could potentially be a bit of a problem.

The renewed interest in digital drugs otherwise known as binaural beats - electronic sound files, or 'doses', downloaded from the internet that claim to replicate everything from alcohol to cocaine in the brain of the listener - is all part of a resurfacing fascination with sound. While people have started sharing their legal ear-highs more and more, claiming they got wasted on aural stimulants, YouTube and Tumblr is becoming steadily more awash with hallucinogenic videos claiming to make you trip balls with nothing but two sounds laid over each other.

Before I start I read the comments; 'After 20-30sec you will start to feel dizzy..and then after 1-3 mins its gonna start the effect (Getting High) as long as its playing. Untill you stop it,' one person claims, with so many [sic] instances that I won't bother putting them in. 'Historical informations: that thing has been used in WW2 at the D-Day by the Axis(Nazi) they used it as a weapon and it was stronger actually even to kill a human.'

The truth is that if anyone watched this and got high then I'd be incredibly surprised. However, I can't deny that it did make me feel a little weird - but that's mainly because I was in a dark room with my eyes closed. Pretty much any music would have had a similar effect.

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Not content, I decided to download three doses from popular digital drug dealer i-Doser - one called 'Content', one called 'Alcohol' and one called 'Sleeping Angel'. I can confirm that 'Content' made me feel a bit stressed, 'Alcohol' didn't get me pissed but gave me a headache behind my left eye (it was 35 minutes long FFS), but 'Sleeping Angel' did indeed make me fall asleep for three hours, like an angel.

To be honest, that could have been because I was tired, but who knows? In terms of 'Alcohol', according to i-Doser, 'some have experienced pure drunkenness from a single dose' but, as hard as I tried, I found that the effects were only noticeable after drinking four whiskeys and eating a sandwich. Made of vodka.

Listening to the eerie extended bloooooooop noise of 'Alcohol' while drunk on actual alcohol was the only time anything actaully happened, but it wasn't good. It was more of a: 'I'm drunk and have had one too many cigarettes and need to sit down in the smoking area' vibe, which everyone knows is not exactly the best part of an evening.

So why would anyone want to do this? 'We're a long way off finding out exactly why the brain responds to music and why we have such strong powerful emotional responses,' explains Grace Watts of the British Association for Music Therapy. '[Binaural beats] isn't something that gets explored in music therapy, or in general practice, but it's people pushing the boundaries and trying to explore what music is and what it can do.'

So why didnt it work for me? I know I'm someone who can get chills (Justin Timberlake's Lovestoned/I Think She Knows when the beat breaks down does it all the time), but this just wasn't doing it.

A bit more digging and I then came across the #ASMR hashtag. It seemed all over the internet teenagers were creating videos and audio in order to share #tingles (seriously, search for it on Twitter or Tumblr) to create that feeling you get when someone at school pretended to crack an egg on your head while running their fingers down your neck. Don't say you didn't do this?!

'Autonomous sensory meridian response doesn't really mean anything, but it's a fancy way of describing a sensation some people get when exposed to certain sensory stimuli,' Heather Feather, a popular ASMR artist, explains to TechStuff. 'People can be triggered by hair brushing, or a soft voice, or a whisper or chalk on a chalk board or watching someone do a task in a focused way.'

For her, she says a tingles trigger could be a soft-voiced waitress at a table or nails tapping on a table - but there was no nowhere online she could go. Until, of course, YouTube launched. The first time she came across GentleWhispering's channel was a revelation. 'I was gobsmacked! Everything that this woman was doing was triggering me. It was great! I read her infobox on YouTube and she mentioned ASMR so I googled it…'

Have a search and I'm pretty sure you'll find something that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and cold tingles creep down your spine. From crackling fire, to the sound of nails tapping, to whispers, if you're sensitive to sound (and not everyone is) then you'll hit upon your personal trigger.

For me, it's the above video of YouTuber ThatASMRChick making weird noises into the mic. It floored me (and my spine). Described as a 'Head Orgasm' by the tumblr community, profiles such as The Tingles and tingletales post videos of a whole range of different sounds, catering to a range of tastes without the unfortunate side effect of people having fetish-sex throughout.

Grace Watts points out despite how it seems, this isn't the first time there's been a fascination with weird noises - Heinrich Wilhem Dove created an alternative sound medicine model as far back as 1839, and there's been research into it ever since. 'This isn't a new thing - but it's something that people have tapped into again,' she says. 'Studies have found that neural pathways formed early in our lives are strengthened by music and people are looking less for chemical stimulants, more for non-synthetic, non-drug-based sensations. The YouTube generation are a cleaner, more healthy-living generation of celebrities - we're not looking at the 90s here!'

It's true that nobody's exactly 3D printing crack cocaine here, but I can't help but feel that the fascination with the #tingles just reinforces our increasing need for escapism and euphoria in an ever more exhausting world. Or maybe, it's just a way for people who get the shivers when they hear Justin Timberlake to come together and really hone those feels. Plus, if they don't harm us, and it makes you feel good then why not? People listen to whale noises for crying out loud.

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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