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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.

How long should you hold your inhale?

Joe Dolce
Jun 6, 2016 · 3 min read

When I was growing up, holding in a massive hit for 5 seconds was supposed to get you higher: “If you don’t cough, you don’t get off,” went one popular stoner catchphrase. And while it’s cute, it’s dead wrong, according to scientists who’ve been studying the question and discerning myth from fact.

There are two main cannabinoids in cannabis: THC and CBD. THC gets you high; CBD is responsible for most of the healing. To learn how to maximize both of these wonderful molecules I turned to Mimi Peleg, the woman who has probably taught more people how to properly use cannabis than anyone. That’s not an exaggeration. Before moving to Santa Cruz where she now works as a “cannabis lifestyle manage,” at the Green Acres dispensary (you’ve got to love the hippies) Mimi trained about 3,000 patients in Israel’s medical cannabis program. With some 20,000 patients, it’s the largest state sponsored medical cannabis program in the world. Every month, patients get 20g of cannabis (the $100 cost is covered by national insurance), but all patients must be trained to smoke properly. Having read every scientific study and having access to the world’s greatest cannabis scientists, Mimi has concluded that holding in smoke for longer than a second is not necessary.

Cannabinoids are absorbed into the blood in milliseconds, so there is no reason to keep smoke that contains plant matter, tars and other pollutants in the lungs any longer.

However, holding in smoke can be useful when showing the uninitiated how to inhale properly. “I usually instruct newbies or elderly people to hold it for a few seconds so they don’t just put it in their mouth and blow it out. This ensures they get something into their lungs.” She also instructs newbies to take 50% air to avoid violent coughing. (That kind of eruption is the result of a large portion of THC, an oil based molecule, hitting the water based lining of the lungs. Remember, oil and water don’t mix).

More important than the time you hold the inhalation is how deeply you hold it. Shallow breathing fills about .5 of a liter of the lungs. Deeper breathing fills the lungs with up to 5 liters of air. That means that 10 times the amount of cannabinoids are getting into the bloodstream. A deeper breath will get you a deeper experience.

As to smoke or vapor, the answer is: It depends on your goals. Obviously, vapor has less pollutants, so it’s cleaner. (Note: no study has ever linked permanent lung damage to cannabis smoke, probably because the anti-inflammatory effects counter the irritating effects of smoke). But vapor contains fewer terpenes and flavonoids, so the range of the high is limited. It’s clear, but not as powerful. Everyone notices that.

A few additional bits of cannabinolgy:

· Grind weed well, especially if you’re vaping as you’ll maximum surface area.

· If you’re smoking in a pipe turn it on its side while lighting to avoid burning fingers

· If you’re super sensitive use a match as opposed to a lighter which contains butane. The Hippies in Santa Cruz only use a beeswax candle, says Peleg.

· Mix your strains: “Growers don’t want to hear that this, but I don’t care what wins the Cup: If you smoke one strain for a month you won’t get as high. Especially, if you are a seasoned user [and have a tolerance]. The only thing that will help is to mix the strains because they have different terpenes and flavonoids which hit different receptors. This works for a vape and a joint.”

When I was growing up, holding in a massive hit for 5 seconds was supposed to get you higher: “If you don’t cough, you don’t get off,” went one popular stoner catchphrase. And while it’s cute, it’s… ]]>