Horrors! Yet another digital 'high' that twists minds!
By John Kelly
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2010
Teens, in pursuit of their inalienable right to try to get high off of anything that can be ingested, digested or harvested, are apparently now trying to get high off of MP3s . . . Call it "i-dosing." The adolescents can be seen on YouTube, wearing headphones, listening to pulsing soundtracks that supposedly simulate the effects of recreational drugs. They giggle. They gyrate. They flutter their hands in front of their faces.
To his family and teachers, Kevin (not his real name) appears to be a normal teenager. He's the sort of kid any parent would be proud to have: an honor student, captain of his school's handball team and a volunteer at a neighborhood homeless animal shelter. But what they don't know is that Kevin experiments with a dangerous drug that some experts warn can affect his moods, alter his perceptions and rewire the very circuitry of his brain.
Kevin is "i-wording."
That's the umbrella term addiction experts give to a range of potentially destructive behaviors. What the behaviors have in common is using the eyes to rapidly -- or slowly (or mediumly) -- scan a line of letters that have been arranged to spell out a hidden message, a message that can cause feelings of excitement, desire, fear, elation, even boredom.
The drug comes in a variety of forms, some familiar, some new. The letters have been found on paper, the same material used in the 1960s to ingest LSD, a powerful hallucinogen known as "acid." Some i-worders employ expensive devices to achieve a digital "high," downloading letters from the Internet.
While many addicts prefer to i-word in their homes, some get high right out in the open: on park benches, in buses and even in dentists' waiting rooms.
For Kevin, the slow, inexorable slide into addiction started simply enough. On the playground after school, a friend slipped him a dose that consisted of 17 syllables, the letters arranged in three short lines. After i-wording the lines, Kevin was overcome with a feeling of peace and an inexplicable desire to see cherry blossoms. He even thought he could see cherry blossoms -- the delicate petals falling slowly -- in his head.
Since first falling victim to that gateway drug, Kevin has admitted to going on weekend-long "binges," where he spends hours i-wording, staring at one line of letters after another, the synapses in his brain swamped with artificial images.
"You should see him," said Kevin's mother, Rebecca (not her real name). "His eyes move back and forth as if he's in some kind of trance. He can sit that way for days. Why can't he watch TV like the other children?"
Kevin posted video of himself on YouTube i-wording. He sobs after ingesting doses called "Old Yeller" and "Of Mice and Men." He laughs out loud after sampling something called "Sniglets." After i-wording "Metamorphosis," Kevin admits to feeling "creeped out." Another video shows him exhibiting signs of anger and confusion after i-wording a dose by Glenn Beck (his real name).
Who creates these mood-altering drugs? Police report that i-word labs can spring up anywhere, though they tend to cluster in areas where there is cheap coffee and access to free wi-fi. The i-word creators earn barely a penny a letter for their efforts, but so intent are they on producing an artificial high in addicts that they keep at it, endlessly arranging vowels and consonants to achieve the desired psychological effect in the hapless slaves they hold in their thrall.
Incredibly, jurisdictions across the country are powerless to stop the practice. An exception is Kansas, which has already banned i-wording, pulling the paginated devices from shelves and restricting the shipment of Kindles and iPads into the state. "It changes the way people think," said a Kansas official, "and we can't have that."
Kevin insists he can keep his addiction under control, but even now he's making the transition from a user to a pusher. He recently shut the door to his bedroom and starting tapping at his computer, eager to stimulate unknown addicts: ITWA SADARKA NDSTOR MYNIGHT . . . .