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Debunking The Myth Of Holding A Hit Of Marijuana

The age-old myth of holding in a hit of weed smoke is said to make you feel higher. But does science back up these claims? Read on to find out what holding a hit does to your body.

Surely you have witnessed this numerous times. Maybe you even do it yourself. Firing up a joint, taking a few hits, and holding it in stronger than the vaults at Fort Knox. You proceed to pass the joint along to your friends while holding the hit in, mimicking Houdini’s underwater escape.

It is the standard no-cost approach to getting higher, right? Hold the smoke in for longer, and the body will have extra time to absorb more THC through the lung’s alveoli. Unfortunately, despite the apparent logical reasoning behind this notion, this theory does not hold up.

Air contains approximately 20% oxygen. Our lungs on average can hold 6 litres of air in one breath. When we exhale, the air that escapes our body holds approximately 15% oxygen. We are not all that efficient at absorbing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide, and that is why we breathe rhythmically and do not hold 6 litres of air for several minutes to absorb as much oxygen as we can in one go.

The same principle applies to smoking weed.

BUT I SWEAR THAT THE LONGER I HOLD IT, THE HIGHER I GET

Regrettably, that is not what is going on. The lungs can transfer gas in very small quantities at the nanosecond level. It occurs almost instantly. According to some sources, 95% of all possible THC is absorbed near instantly upon inhale.

If you hold in your toke, you may feel it hits you stronger, but what is really going on is you are depriving oxygen content to your brain, making you feel a little lightheaded. If you add carbon monoxide and toxins from combustion to the mix, this lightheadedness is intensified.

TRY IT FOR YOURSELF

You can quickly test this for yourself. If you smoke tobacco, consider taking a joint-like hit and holding it in as long as you can. You will feel the same tingling or slight dizziness happen, even though there is no weed in the mix.

If you don’t smoke cigarettes, sit on a chair, legs parallel. Grab your legs and put your head between your knees, looking down. Take a few good deep breaths, then exhale as much as you can and hold it for as long as you can. Right before releasing, pull yourself back into normal sitting position as you let yourself breathe. If you do this intensely enough, not only will you feel dizzy, you may even faint! So make sure to do this under the watch of a friend and take it easy.

There is a game where kids induce fainting from oxygen deprivation. Same principal as the chair exercise, they stand back against a wall, exhale, then another kid puts their hand on the victim’s chest, applying slight pressure. In as little as 30 seconds, kids would go lights out, just like when you get a whitey from smoking cannabis.

THEN WHY DO I FEEL THIS WAY?

The more you hold your breath, the more elevated the heart rate gets. Blood is pumped faster to compensate for the low oxygen levels. This has a compounding effect as you hold your breath, since there is no oxygen available. The body starts reacting to this new emergency warning sign. Adrenaline starts getting released to prepare for a flight-or-fight response, which only increases the overall “high” sensation.

Another symptom of oxygen deprivation is the tingling sensation of your skin and face – often also falsely associated with getting extra-blazed.

SO, HOW CAN I GET HIGHER THAN HIGH?

If you want to get extra high, the answer is pretty straightforward. Smoke more weed. Or smoke stronger strains, or even consider concentrates. If you really want to achieve new levels of psychotropic euphoria, try edibles. But be aware; they will hit you in different ways, and are often quite strong.

Consider vaping and dabbing concentrates. These are the least harmful methods of inhaling THC and other cannabinoids. As there is no combustion happening, you will not breathe in carbon monoxide, tar, and other toxins. With a vape, you will be able to smoke a much larger quantity of weed without the harmful oxygen depriving interception caused by carbon monoxide.

Being that concentrates have very high levels of THC, the same volume of inhaled toke will also contain a much higher concentration of THC, resulting in a bigger and stronger hit.

The old saying “less is more” applies perfectly here. The less you hold the smoke in, the more chances you have to take another toke.

The formula is quite simple. The more hits you take, the higher you will get.

Will holding a hit increase how high you get? We look into what exactly is happening when you hold in cannabis smoke.

Breathhold duration and response to marijuana smoke

Affiliation

  • 1 Department of Psychiatry, Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago 60637.
  • PMID: 2554344
  • DOI: 10.1016/0091-3057(89)90534-0

Breathhold duration and response to marijuana smoke

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Authors

Affiliation

  • 1 Department of Psychiatry, Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago 60637.
  • PMID: 2554344
  • DOI: 10.1016/0091-3057(89)90534-0

Abstract

Marijuana smokers are frequently observed to hold the smoke in their lungs for prolonged periods (10-15 sec) apparently in the belief that prolonged breathholding intensifies the effects of the drug. The actual influence of breathhold duration on response to marijuana smoke has not been studied. The present study examined the effects of systematic manipulation of breathhold duration on the physiological, cognitive and subjective response to marijuana smoke in a group of eight regular marijuana smokers. Subjects were exposed to each of three breathhold duration conditions (0, 10 and 20 sec) on three occasions, scheduled according to a randomized block design. A controlled smoking procedure was used in which the number of puffs, puff volume and postpuff inhalation volume were held constant. Expired air carbon monoxide levels were measured before and after smoking to monitor smoke intake. Typical marijuana effects (increased heart rate, increased ratings of “high” and impaired memory performance) were observed under each of the breathhold conditions, but there was little evidence that response to marijuana was a function of breathhold duration.

Marijuana smokers are frequently observed to hold the smoke in their lungs for prolonged periods (10-15 sec) apparently in the belief that prolonged breathholding intensifies the effects of the drug. The actual influence of breathhold duration on response to marijuana smoke has not been studied. The … ]]>