So, do you have to inhale weed to get high ? Or can you really get a secondhand high from being around other people smoking cannabis? Is it really a thing?
Can you get high from smelling weed in the air or walking through the remnants of secondhand weed smoke? No, it’s highly unlikely you’ll experience a secondhand high or have cannabis byproducts show up on a drug screening. As the 2015 Johns Hopkins University research study shows, in order to catch a secondhand high, you’d have to be under extreme conditions and lack proper ventilation.
You’ve probably heard the term “ secondhand high ” before. Also known as a contact high, the concept has become a popularized plot point in films and TV shows. You may have even been to a smoky concert hall yourself and walked away feeling a little lightheaded, even if you never took a single puff.
Researchers concluded that being exposed to marijuana smoke under “extreme conditions” can indeed give non-smokers a contact buzz. Outside of that very limited scope, though, any secondhand effects you might feel around cannabis smoke are likely to be the result of the power of suggestion. You can’t get high from catching a whiff of someone’s joint while walking down the street, but you will feel some effects if you are sitting in an unventilated enclosure filled with smoke, also known as hotboxing.
Nonetheless, weed smokers should still be respectful of people who don’t consume cannabis. The next time you spark one up, try to be aware of your surroundings and make an attempt to keep the smoke and strong odor away from non-smokers. To enjoy a smooth smoking session without affecting your non-partaking neighbors, cannabis users should spark up in well-ventilated areas to ensure passive inhalers will not feel the effects of the smoke or test positive for weed.
When considered together, this and the 2015 Johns Hopkins study show you would need to be in an unventilated room for some time to feel anything. More than likely, though, the cannabinoids will have disappeared into the air before even reaching you.
Researchers started with a dozen people — six cannabis smokers and six non-smokers. In the first experiment, all 12 subjects spent an hour together in a small unventilated room, during which time each smoker went through 10 “high-potency” joints (with 11.3% THC content). Afterward, the non-smokers reported feeling “pleasant,” more tired, and less alert. And sure enough, their blood and urine tests came up positive for THC .
If we pull a page from the 1999 British Journal of Anesthesia , we learn that the lungs absorb most of the THC when cannabis smoke is inhaled. Researchers have discovered that approximately fifty percent (50%) of THC and other cannabinoids present in cannabis cigarettes, or joints, make it into the smoke and are inhaled.
According to a 2015 Johns Hopkins University study — the answer is both yes and no.
Ever wonder if you can get high from smelling weed? Learn if you can really get a secondhand high.
As more states legalize marijuana, issues regarding secondhand exposure are likely to be examined in more depth.
Of course, this study evaluated only a subset of people, but the take away message is that many people are likely exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke.
In one study, levels of ammonia were 20 times higher in secondhand marijuana smoke than secondhand tobacco smoke. Levels of hydrogen cyanide and aromatic amines were three times to five times higher in secondhand marijuana smoke than secondhand tobacco smoke. And like tobacco smoke, marijuana contains a number of carcinogens (compounds known to cause cancer) such as benzene, cadmium, nickel, and more.
For Users: Remember that legal doesn’t mean harmless. Consider the risk of secondhand smoke to non-smokers nearby, as well as the risk to children. Driving while under the influence of marijuana has the potential to result in injuries to both self, and other passengers in the car, as marijuana users are roughly 25 percent more likely to crash. And, keep in mind that long-term use of marijuana can result in addiction in some people.
We know that personal use of marijuana carries some health risks but what about non-users who are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke? Do adults or children who are exposed need to worry?
It’s difficult to know how common secondhand marijuana smoke exposure is, most notably because it is illegal in many places. A 2015 study set out to examine this question by questioning people at two southeastern universities. Researchers found that:
There are difficulties in evaluating potential hazards of secondhand marijuana smoke; not the least of which is that it is illegal in many areas, making studies difficult. Another is that the potency of marijuana has changed over time; the joints smoked by hippies in the 60’s aren’t the same as those smoked today. That said, several risks and potential risks have been identified.
A final concern is not a risk related to marijuana smoke per se, but is a secondhand risk to those who are around those who smoke marijuana. Children and even dogs have suffered from the accidental ingestion of marijuana. From broken bongs that can cut, to the financial complications imposed on nearby nonusers (for example if a child has a parent who faces legal problems due to use), are all things that need to be considered by those who choose to smoke marijuana.
Certainly, the findings of changes in blood vessels with secondhand marijuana smoke raises concern about the public health impact of exposure, but a thorough understanding of risks, as well as preventive measures that should be taken, is lacking at the current time.
How does secondhand marijuana smoke exposure affect the health of nearby non-pot smokers, and what impact does this have on drug testing?