We have all seen it in a movie or our own smoking circles. 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 absorb the precious THC, thereby boosting your high. Science has been playing catch-up to gather research for all myths relating to weed. Luckily, this is one topic that science has figured out.
Then why do I feel higher?
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, which is often also falsely associated with getting extra high.
How to inhale weed properly
Proper inhalation techniques stem from the same basic principles and vary slightly depending on whether you are smoking a joint, hitting a bong, or using a vaporizer.
When smoking, you are burning cannabis to the point of combustion and inhaling the smoke to deliver cannabinoids into your bloodstream. Smoking can be painful for the lungs, so it is important to take slow, measured draws to minimize irritation.
Start with shallow inhalations and draw more deeply as you progress and become more comfortable.
Here is a handy technique to ensure your lungs absorb the maximum amount of THC: slowly inhale about two-thirds of your hit and follow up with a deep, inhaled breath of air. The fresh air pushes the cannabis smoke down into the lungs and should improve THC’s absorption.
Consumption method matters
The most important aspect to note when determining how long to hold your hit in is the method of consumption. Cannabinoid absorption differs depending on the type of consumption method because your body absorbs cannabinoids through each technique differently.
One way to explain these differences is by looking at bioavailability. Bioavailability is the process where substances are absorbed by tissues and organs, or rather, how likely it is for the molecules in cannabinoids to pass through the gastrointestinal tract liver filtration system and then be put to work.
Smoking delivers cannabinoids at an average bioavailability rate of 30 percent where edibles deliver cannabinoids at an average bioavailability rate of 5 percent. This means that only 5 percent of a product’s cannabinoid content will get absorbed into the bloodstream.
This is also why edibles take much longer to kick in. They have to endure a long process throughout the body first. But because smoking weed produces an oxidization process, cannabinoid absorption is relatively high. This is because molecules do not pass through the acidic stomach environment, but rather go into the bloodstream through the lungs.
How long do you need to hold in your hits?
Cannabinoids from combusted cannabis are absorbed rather quickly, so by holding in your hit too long you are mostly opening yourself up to unwanted absorption of tar. In fact, approximately 88 percent of combusted smoke gasses contain non-cannabinoid elements.
Smoking produces a rapid effect that lasts for a short time due to its high bioavailability, so the general recommendation is that holding it for a few seconds should do the trick.
Holding it any longer than that is just a waste. Holding a huge hit just produces more smoke than your lungs can handle and it cannot go anywhere but out.
Cannabis that is vaporized or dabbed, on the other hand, is cleaner and contains less tar or other non-cannabis elements. Because you are only consuming vapor, holding in your hit slightly longer when vaporizing or dabbing will not absorb any extra tar or smoke.
Although each vaporizer and consumer can alter the dosage, you should still generally hold your hit for a few seconds to get the best results.
Instead of holding it in, inhale deeper
If you are inhaling from a joint or blunt, your lungs expand to pick up oxygen and the cannabinoids to then pass them to your blood vessels. This transportation process runs throughout your entire body and is how you get high.
Instead of holding your hit for as long as possible, consider inhaling it more deeply into your lungs. Deeper breathing fills the lungs with up to 5 liters of air which gives cannabis more room to enter the bloodstream. In comparison, normal breathing only fills your lungs up with 0.5 liters of air.