Does Holding a Toke Get You Higher? Whether you consider yourself to be the most seasoned stoner on the face of the earth or something of a newcomer, it’s guaranteed that you’ve pondered this particular question more than a few times.
On a global basis, the subject of exactly how long you should hold in every hit is one of simply enormous debate. And given the fact that pretty much everyone seems to have their own conflicting opinions, it really is difficult to come out with anything even close to a concrete response.
Of course, science can tell us a lot about what exactly goes on, but if you’re looking for a precise answer…well, chances are you’re in for a long wait!
Does Holding a Toke Get You Higher? False Logic?
Common sense would seem to tell you that if you hold a hit in your lungs for longer, more of the good stuff will make its way into your body. By contrast, coughing out the entire hit after a split second isn’t the way to get high. In reality though, while the latter is relatively accurate, it’s not entirely as straightforward with the former. There are so many stoners who hold in every hit until they are bright red in the face, insisting that doing so is worth the pain as it gets them incredibly high.
In terms of what science has to say about the whole thing however, it turns out this really isn’t the case at all.
Cannabis and Your Lungs
In order to gain a better understanding of whether the question does holding a toke get you higher we need to know what actually takes place and first you need to know a little bit more about the way your lungs work. As you may or may not know, an extensive range of studies over recent years have proved that cannabis is nowhere near as harmful to human lungs as tobacco smoke. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that cannabis (or components thereof) can actually be beneficial in both the treatment and prevention of various diseases.
Even in the case of an enormous 20-year study that ended in 2006, researchers found zero evidence to suggest that the lungs are in any way detrimentally affected by cannabis.
In terms of absorption, the phytocannabinoids in the cannabis you smoke start being absorbed by the body literally the moment they enter your body. You breathe in the smoke and immediately the air sacs in your lungs – millions of them – begin delivering these cannabis compounds into your bloodstream. They collectively cover a huge surface area, meaning that it takes absolutely no time at all for this gas exchange process to begin.
Nevertheless, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the more time you give these air sacs to transfer the cannabis compounds into your body, the better the job they would do and the higher you would get. Once again however, science tells a different story.
No Direct Effect
One of the most important studies into the subject was carried out in 1989, which involved a group of participants smoking cannabis under a variety of conditions. The scientists laid out extremely specific guidelines in terms of inhalation volumes, number of puffs and whether those concerned should hold their breath from anything from 0 to 20 seconds. They wanted to see exactly how these different variables had an impact on the strength of the high felt by those taking part.
By the time the project was finished and the scientists had carried out all manner of tests on the participants, one thing was abundantly clear. While every member of the group had felt the effects of the cannabis they smoked, there was absolutely no difference in terms of potency between those who held their breath and those that breathed out straight away.
Which in turn means that the answer to the question does holding a toke get you higher it is no, it was well and truly busted almost 30 years ago.
Cutting Off Oxygen
So if this is the case, why is it that so many stoners are completely convinced that holding your breath really does have an impact? After all, these are the folks who smoke cannabis as a lifestyle and have tried and tested pretty much every approach to toking the human brain can imagine.
If these people say that holding your breath works, surely it must do something…right?
In this instance, the science behind it all does seem to suggest that they are onto something. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with more cannabis entering their system as a result of holding in each hit for as long as possible. Instead, it is basically a case of those doing so effectively suffocating themselves temporarily.
When you hold your breath for as long as possible, you deprive your brain of oxygen. And when you deprive your brain of oxygen, this immediately starts destroying brain cells and you find yourself feeling dizzy and light-headed. Sensations which when combined with cannabis can certainly make you feel as if you are higher than you really are. Plus there’s the way in which taking in a heavy hit of cannabis inherently means inhaling much less oxygen than you normally would. As such, you end up with less oxygen in your lungs, you hold your breath for as long as possible and the resulting oxygen deprivation leads to a serious head rush of sorts.
So really, it’s hardly surprising that those who do this habitually genuinely believe that holding their breath gets them higher than they actually are. Although by contrast, those who simply want to feel and enjoy the effects of the cannabis as purely as possible would be well advised to breathe out each hit rather quicker.
How Long to Hold?
All of the above is certainly interesting, but it really doesn’t help in terms of isolating exactly how long you should be holding in each hit. It’s clear that spluttering it out immediately isn’t a good idea, but at the same time holding your breath for as long as possible also isn’t advisable. Which means you need to be looking for something of a happy medium, so where do the experts believe this lies?
Well, there are far too many variables to take into account. These include things like your lung capacity, cannabis tolerance, the size of each hit, the strength of the strain and so on. Nevertheless, it generally seems to be agreed that somewhere between five seconds and ten seconds is pretty much perfect. Less than this and you’ll waste your weed, any more and you will probably feel the effects of oxygen deprivation more than those of cannabis.
One important thing to note however – holding a hit in your lungs for any period of time whatsoever is only advisable if you do not combine cannabis with tobacco. The difference being that when you inhale tobacco smoke, holding it in your lungs simply gives it more time to transfer all that terrifyingly toxic tar and chemical residue into your lungs. And once it’s there, it’s pretty difficult to get rid of.