When you start smoking pot, there’s a lot of information to take in and resources can be scarce. Since marijuana is still illegal in most parts of the country, finding consistent answers and instructions can be a daunting task. In the early days of your relationship with cannabis, you may have been led to believe that holding in your hit gets you higher. Perhaps you’ve watched your friends get red in the face from fighting off exhaling the load of smoke in their lungs and thought to yourself, “Is that really worth it?” The answer is: No, it’s really not.
Cannabis And Healthy Lungs
Over the years cannabis has been said to be as harmful as tobacco smoke, but it’s only a sad attempt to deter people from smoking. This lie has prevented a bunch of people from taking their first puff, but numerous studies over the last few years have shown encouraging results. While tobacco causes upper respiratory infections and cancer, cannabis smoke is not linked to cancer or lung disease at all. In fact, marijuana is proven to help cancer patients deal with the symptoms of chemotherapy and radiation.
A twenty year study that ran from 1986 to 2006 concluded that after seven joint-years of lifetime exposure (1 joint a day for 7 years or 1 joint a week for 49 years), “There was no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function.”
Your lungs begin absorbing phytocannabinoids instantly after inhaling cannabis smoke. The lungs are covered with millions of tiny air sacs where gas exchange occurs. These alveoli are equipped with a large surface area to make it possible for compounds like THC to be introduced into your body.
A study in June of 1989 found that being high is not effected by the amount of time that you hold the smoke in. Participants were given three different conditions to hold their breath under, ranging from 0 to 20 seconds. The procedure for smoking was standardized by number of puffs, puff volume, and the post-puff inhalation volume. Smoke intake was monitored by looking at the level of carbon monoxide in the air before and after smoking. Although everyone that participated felt the effects from cannabis, they did not see any different between those that held their hits and those that didn’t.
Cutting Off Oxygen
Any effect felt from holding hits in is sadly a result of depriving your brain of oxygen. When your brain is without oxygen, it kills brain cells and leaves you feeling very light headed. Although it can be easy to mix up these effects with the high from cannabis, it’s not the power of the plant that you’re feeling. To prevent yourself from losing brain cells while smoking, try exhaling after five seconds instead of double or triple that. This way, you’ll breathe easier and your brain will only feel the effects from cannabis, and not oxygen deprivation.
This post was originally published on December 23, 2015, it was updated on March 15, 2017.