A contact high, also known as a second-hand high, is the exposure to cannabis through the external environment. If you’re struggling to wrap your head around it, imagine chilling in a car with a few of your friends, and everyone is smoking some bud except for you.
Even if you’ve opted out of smoking, you may be wondering if all that second-hand smoke (or a hot-box) in the car will get you high.
If you’ve got an important meeting the next day, a drug test for a new job or if you’re simply a non-smoker, it’s completely reasonable to wonder if a contact high is real.
We all know that second-hand smoke from cigarettes can damage our lungs and don’t even get us started on second-hand smoke from other sources such as car exhausts and air pollution. With all these assumptions, the potential of getting a contact high is very real.
To answer your questions, stay tuned as we cover the basics of the contact high, whether or not a contact high is real or not and how to avoid getting one!
Is A Contact High Real?
When cannabis is smoked, the THC is activated by the heat and inhaled into the lungs, where it makes contact with the several millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli that are lined throughout your lungs.
The alveoli are responsible for the gas exchange in the lungs, allowing the cannabis compounds to enter our bloodstream extremely efficiently due to the massive surface area they cover.
During this phase, the cannabinoids like THC get absorbed by your bloodstream and get you high.
But what happens when you exhale the smoke? Are the cannabinoids still present in the smoke? The truth is, it depends.
In 1999, The British Journal of Anesthesia found that “Approximately 50 percent of the THC and other cannabinoids present in a cannabis cigarette enter the mainstream smoke and are inhaled.
The amount absorbed through the lungs depends on the smoking style. With experienced smokers, who inhale deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs for some seconds before exhaling, virtually all of the cannabinoids present in the mainstream smoke enter the bloodstream.”
Another more recent study conducted in 2005 found similar results: “the variability of THC in plant material (0.3 percent to 30 percent) leads to variability in tissue THC levels from smoking, which is, in itself, a highly individual process. THC bioavailability averages 30 percent.”
In a nutshell, these studies have found that cannabis that has been directly inhaled usually does not offer 100 percent bioavailability even when the smoke inhaled and held in the lungs for longer than average periods of time.
What this means is that the exhaled smoke may still have some active cannabinoids in them.
Now that we’ve cleared things up and know that contact high is real, how much smoke do you have to inhale to get a contact high? And is it possible to not be able to get high from second-hand smoke?
How Can Someone Get a Contact High?
So in what situations would someone get a contact high? To answer your questions, a study published in 2015 conducted by John Hopkins University found that the situation can vary depending on one main factor.
The researchers had started with a total of 12 participants, six cannabis users and six non-users.
During the first trial, the researchers placed the participants in an unventilated room where each of the 6 cannabis users was to smoke 10 high potency joints (approximately 11.3% THC content).
The non-smokers were present in the room and had to spend time with the cannabis smoking group. By the end of the trial, the non-smokers expressed feelings of well-being and tiredness, which were typical feelings associated with the cannabis high. The non-smokers had also tested positive for THC in their blood and urine.
In the second trial, researchers reused the same scenario but instead, they ventilated the room to provide proper airflow. The cannabis users replicated what they had already done in the trial before, smoking 10 high potency joints, while the control group was in the room.
The end result was the control group mentioning that they felt “hungry” with THC tests coming back negative with no signs of the THC present in their blood or urine.
While it definitely is possible to get high through second-hand smoke, it’s not as easy as you would think. Researchers had concluded that a contact high was achievable, albeit under extreme circumstances.
If you’ve ever watched a Seth Rogan comedy movie, you’re probably aware of what hotboxing is. In short, you’d have to hotbox a room with no ventilation in order to get a contact high from the second-hand smoke. Even with slight ventilation, the air dispersion would make a great change in the air, minimizing the chance of a contact high.
How to Prevent a Contact High?
Whether you’ve got a big test the next day, an important job interview, or a drug test you need to pass, it’s important to know the implications of a contact high.
While it generally is a stretch to assume you’ll get high sitting in the same room as your pot-smoking buddies, studies show that people who are in the presence of someone who smokes in a non-ventilated room could succumb to the cannabinoids in the second-hand smoke.
The studies show that contact highs are indeed a very real thing. If you’re a cannabis smoker yourself, it’s important to be mindful of your environment and the people around you. Much like the second-hand smoke from cigarettes, it usually isn’t a good idea to expose people to smoke from your joints.
Many products can be used instead of joints and bongs to get the properties of THC and medicate without smoke. Edibles, tinctures, capsules, and so much more can be used to consume your cannabis discreetly and protect your friends from getting high.
Use Sugar Jack’s edibles as your get-go. Natural, delicious and infused with premium THC distillate extract, these edibles will be a great introduction to the world of no smoking.
Still, if you’re going to spark one up, make sure you do so in a well-ventilated or open area so people can step away when they need to. It also goes without saying that you should keep pets and especially children away from the cannabis smoke. As always, happy trails!