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When you reach an altered state of consciousness, it means you perceive reality in a different way. Usually, drugs are used for this, such as magic mushrooms or LSD. But you can also achieve an altered state of consciousness without drugs. In this blog, we will discuss what this actually means and how you can achieve it.

What is an altered state of consciousness?

Drugs make you hallucinate, your state of consciousness changes. Almost everyone has heard of this, but what exactly does it mean? It means that your normal level of alertness, of consciousness changes in some way. It was psychologist Charles Tart who first used the "term altered state of consciousness" (ASC, altered state of consciousness) in 1972.

It is actually impossible to draw a sharp line between the normal state and the non-normal state of consciousness. In fact, where you put it is very personal and depends on how sensitive a person is. Usually, we associate mind-altering drugs with causing an altered state of consciousness. But in fact, there is a broad spectrum of experiences that we can qualify as non-normal states of consciousness.

The characteristics of an altered state of consciousness, can be described as follows. Your normal thought patterns are interrupted, causing you to perceive yourself and your environment in a different way. Your imagination, your experience of time, mental functioning, higher thought processes, your awareness of yourself and your memory can all change as a result.

During such an ASC, a person may be more or less aware of the environment. For example, a person may not remember who he himself is or where he is when he is in such a dreamlike state. During an ASC, you experience a temporary deviation from your normal being, thinking and behavior. But this does allow you to look at life through a different lens and break disruptive mental and emotional patterns.

Achieving altered states of consciousness without drugs

If you are curious about ways to achieve altered states of consciousness, but prefer not to use drugs, fortunately there are alternatives. For this, you can use breathwork, induce a trance or go under hypnosis. Below, we explain how this works.


The breath has a lot of influence on body and mind. Holotropic breathwork makes use of this. It was developed by psychologist Stanislav Grof. By breathing very fast (controlled hyperventilation), you can adjust the ratio of oxygen to carbon in your blood. Holotropic breathwork can lead to intense feelings and experiences. These can sometimes resemble the effects of a trip with mind-altering substances. For this reason, it is wise to do this breathwork under the guidance of an experienced therapist.

You can use holotropic breathwork for your emotional and spiritual development. A study on the effects of holotropic breathwork on psychiatric patients found that 82% of 482 participants benefited. They had mythical, spiritually transcendent and transpersonal experiences. 16% reported recalling memories from past lives or pre-birth. No negative experiences were reported, in all studies held among 11,000 patients, over 12 years.

Altered state of consciousness through trance

During a trance, you are more aware of the inner world and less aware of external stimuli. The striking thing about a trance is that you are not fully alert, but neither are you asleep. Originally, the trance state was used by shamans, who used it to effect healing. They go into a trance by drumming, dancing or chanting or a combination of these. This was usually done in a ritual setting. A shaman can gain profound insights this way, as he or she can bypass the conscious mind and explore other realms, such as the underworld and the upper world.

The trance is not just for spiritual healers. You yourself can enter such an altered state of consciousness without drugs by drumming, or chanting or singing in a gentle rhythm. You don't need conscious effort to do this, and it creates a repetitive stimulus. You turn inward, then over time you enter a trance. Actually, any music with repetitive rhythms can induce a trance. Find what works for you, what can guide you on your inner journey.


You can also achieve an altered state of consciousness without drugs through hypnosis. It is characterized by a sharp focus and at the same time you are more open to suggestions. The line between what is real and what is imagined temporarily blurs. The hypnotic state is created by both the hypnotherapist and the person being hypnotized. The therapist awakens the hypnotic state and then offers suggestions that can be experienced in body and mind.

What you experience under hypnosis can provide guidance for growing and developing in your normal consciousness. The beauty of hypnosis is that it uses the power of imagination to be able to show us what is possible, when you step out of your conditioned patterns. When applied professionally, this ASC proves to be an effective treatment method for addictions, PTSD, anxiety and phobias.

Discovering altered states of consciousness

The different ways of getting into an ASC offer you wonderful tools to break limiting patterns and develop yourself. Some use psychedelics, such as LSD, magic mushrooms or truffles or ayahuasca, for this purpose. These can deliver profound insights and cause a shift in consciousness.

Others prefer to apply other techniques. It is especially important to choose a way that suits you, so you can use it with confidence. Remember that psychedelics often work faster and more intensely than breathwork, hypnosis or trance. These drugs can sometimes have quite overwhelming effects. Therefore, be careful if you are new to them and build up the dosage slowly.