Altered state of consciousness

An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of mind, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state. The expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart. It describes induced changes in one’s mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is “altered state of awareness“.

Altered states of consciousness can be associated with artistic creativity or different focus levels. They also can be shared interpersonally and studied as a subject of sociological research.


An altered state of consciousness can come about accidentally through, for example, fever, infections such as meningitis, sleep deprivation, fasting, oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), psychosis, temporal lobe epilepsy or a traumatic accident. Altered states of consciousness also occur in healthy women experiencing childbirth, hence the introduction of the term gender-specific states of consciousness.


An ASC can sometimes be reached intentionally by the use of sensory deprivation, an isolation tank, sleep deprivation, lucid dreaming, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, or disciplines.

ASCs can also be attained through the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol and opiates, but more commonly with traditional hallucinogens of indigenous cultures, plants such as cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, Peyote, and Ayahuasca. Other modern hallucinogens that some attempt to use for a similar purpose are (D)-methorphan, LSD-25, substituted phenethylamines, substituted tryptamines, and substituted amphetamines such as those listed in the books PiHKAL and TiHKAL by Dr. Alexander Shulgin, a former analytical organic chemist. These drugs are often noted as “designer drugs” by authorities and professionals or as “research chemicals” by the hallucinogen-use and distribution underground, as an attempt to avoid prosecution under the Federal Analogue Act.

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