• Ashley Slimak

Does Holding Your Breath When You Smoke Really Make You Higher?


Learn more about whether holding your breath when smoking contributes to a stronger high.

We’ve all seen it in a movie. Someone takes a big rip off of a bong, holds their breath as long as they can, and then quickly exhales the smoke as they begin to gasp for air.

The idea is that holding your breath gives your lungs more time to mine the precious THC, thereby boosting your high.


And if this were true, it would be an economical choice. In reality, holding your breath after you take a hit of cannabis will not enhance its effects. Furthermore, there are potential negative consequences of letting smoke linger in your lungs versus quickly and calmly expelling it.


The fact that a prolonged inhalation doesn’t lead to enhanced psychoactive effects is something that’s been known to scientists since 1989. This year, researchers from the University of Chicago published a study that examined the impact of breath-hold duration on subjective feelings, heart rate, and memory performance.


In eight regular cannabis smokers, the effects of cannabis were measured in three separate scenarios. In the first, cannabis smoke was inhaled and immediately exhaled. In the second, the smoke was held in for 10 seconds. In the third, the smoke was held for 20 seconds. The researchers found “little evidence” that breath-hold duration influenced marijuana’s effects.


A follow-up study from the same researchers in 1991 delivered similar results. They found no substantial differences between holding one’s breath for 20 seconds or not holding one’s breath at all.


In spite of these results, some savvy consumers in this day-and-age will hold their breath when taking a hit of weed, just in case it makes a difference.


So, why has this old wives’ tale stuck around for so long?


For most of the past century, cannabis consumption has been illegal. The result? A ton of misinformation has become deeply ingrained in the cannabis culture.


The next question that we must ask ourselves is this—is there any harm that can come from holding one’s breath after inhaling marijuana? I mean, it’s only an extra 10 or 20 seconds, a period of time that most of us can spare.


Unfortunately, scientists believe that prolonged cannabis smoke exposure could pose a greater health risk.


When you inhale smoke, there is the potential of damage to your lung tissue. It’s not only THC that’s delivered to your lungs when you smoke cannabis. Other compounds, some potentially harmful, are also found in the smoke.


One way to reap the therapeutic benefits and reduce the risk of lung damage is to vaporize cannabis flower rather than smoke it.


When you ignite dried cannabis flower, a process called combustion occurs. During this process, many compounds are converted into other forms. There is always a possibility that these alternative forms could be toxic.


Vaporizing herbal cannabis does not expose the plant compounds to as high of heat as combustion. Theoretically, this lower temperature could mean a reduction in toxic substances and an increase in beneficial plant compounds. But keep in mind that more studies are needed to determine if this theory holds true.


And there is another benefit of vaping over smoking herbal cannabis flower. Research has found that users absorb 33% of the THC in cannabis when vaping and only 25% when smoking.


The conclusion? Vaporizing is the true way to get the most from your medical marijuana flower, not smoking it and holding your breath.

Arkansas Marijuana Card Doctor

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Click here to learn more about what Arkansas Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at (844-249-8714) and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.

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