Traffic Roots Audience Pixel
What to Know About Secondhand High

Is a Secondhand High Even a Thing?

What causes a “high”?

The signature “high” that you get from cannabis happens when the chemicals in the plant (mainly Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) interact with and alter the chemistry in your brain.

What does a high feel like?

This is a tricky question to answer because nobody’s body is the same. For some people, a high from marijuana feels euphoric and silly. For others, total relaxation and a depressed mood. Some people report feeling buzzed, exceptionally focused or productive, or they experience unusual closeness to their friends or family. At times, users see hallucinations or feel like their sense of time or memory is altered. Of course, when you get high, you might feel only one of these feelings or several at once, and your first trip might not feel anything like your second or third.

The Factors that Influence a High

Several factors influence how your body responds to marijuana. These factors include:

  • Method of intake
    • Dabbing involves smoking highly concentrated THC extracts through a special pipe. The feeling of getting high occurs almost instantly because of how concentrated the THC is in the product.
    • Smoking marijuana leads to a high within five to 15 minutes.
    • Vaping takes about the same amount of time as smoking marijuana, but many users report that the high isn’t as strong as smoking.
    • Consuming cannabis through edibles avoids combustion altogether, but it can take 30 minutes or more to feel the effects. That said, the high can last significantly longer and be much stronger than inhalation methods.
  • Growers have tweaked and modified certain strains and hybrids to achieve specific results. Some hybrids are mostly CBD-based and give you little to no high, while others (lovingly referred to as “wake and bake”) pack a powerful punch of THC that takes a while to wear off.
  • How much and how often you use marijuana can influence the kind of high you experience, also. Additionally, how long you hold the smoke in your lungs can affect the amount of THC you absorb.
  • Your body
    • Genetics play a pretty significant role in how you experience a high. Some people can tolerate a lot of marijuana right from the beginning, while others can be knocked off their feet by a small dose. Of course, if you’re a featherweight where marijuana is concerned, habitually using hash can help you build up your tolerance to some of the more potent varieties.
    • Metabolism plays a role in how your body processes and stores the THC, which can influence your high.
    • Your weight and the amount of fat you have in your body can also influence how quickly and what kind of high you experience.

Is a secondhand high possible?

So now we get back to the original question: is a secondhand high possible? The long and short is this: yes and no. It is technically possible to experience a secondhand high but only in a ridiculously extreme environment. By ridiculous, we mean you would need to be cooped up in a small, non-ventilated room with multiple chain-smoking marijuana users for over an hour. In a study conducted under those parameters, the test subjects reported mild to moderate effects and some of the non-smokers’ urinalysis results tested positive for THC.

Is it likely that you would ever be in this circumstance? Not likely. Even though “hotboxing” is a thing that some users feel gets them higher than smoking a joint by itself, the excessive amounts of smoke in such a small space still has little impact on non-smokers. While THC is present in the exhaled smoke, the amount that’s exhaled is very low, so getting enough from the smoke around you would require you to be saturated in a lot of smoke for a long time. You’ll certainly smell like pot by the end of a session like that, but you probably won’t experience much of a high.

Is secondhand smoke from marijuana bad for you?

Just because a secondhand high isn’t necessarily possible, doesn’t mean that secondhand smoke isn’t dangerous. In fact, according to the CDC, marijuana smoke has many of the same chemicals and carcinogens as tobacco smoke, so it’s important to smoke in well-ventilated spaces away from children and babies. Additionally, the smoke can irritate the lungs and cause or exacerbate symptoms in people with respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, or COPD.

If you want to avoid some of these risks, consider vaping instead. Some people report that the high isn’t as intense as smoking a joint, but it is the safest for your body and the most environmentally-friendly. Since the vaping process doesn’t actually combust the herb, there aren’t as many particulates released into the air which can affect other people. Instead, vaporizers heat up the air around the marijuana, which vaporizes the THC and allows it to be inhaled by the user. Using a portable vaporizer can be a great alternative to lighting up.