contact high
Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

The first time I got high was in high school. I went to a friend’s house, there were four of us, and I had no intention of smoking to get high. I was sitting there watching them smoke from a bong. I did not realize I was getting a contact high until I got up to use the bathroom; as soon as I got up, I started to feel strange. It felt like an out-of-body experience like I was looking down on everyone. It began to freak me out. The next couple of experiences were the same, same friends and the same situation, me sitting there watching and getting a contact high. I guess I should have known after the first experience not to hang out with them while they were smoking. Trust me when I say the high was as intense as if I had been smoking it directly. So how does a contact high work?

What Is a Contact High?

A contact high is exactly how it sounds; an individual experiences the psychoactive effects without consuming Cannabis, usually via secondhand smoke. This usually happens when in a small space with little ventilation creating a hotbox. In my experience, it was a bedroom with decent ventilation. 

My guess is that I had a very low tolerance at that early age, which means it did not take much to get me high. Of course, as I have consumed Cannabis quite often after those initial experiences, I most likely would no longer get high in a similar situation today. However, if I were to create the ideal conditions for a hotbox, I would get an incredible high. I am working on a few experiments and will post some videos shortly within this article to demonstrate the effects of a contact high. 

The science of a Contact High

When you inhale smoke or vapor in the air, the cannabinoids get absorbed through the lungs and enter the bloodstream creating a high. How high you get depends on a lot of factors. The British Journal of Anesthesia reported, “Approximately 50% of the THC and other cannabinoids in a cannabis cigarette enter the mainstream smoke and are inhaled. The amount absorbed through the lungs depends on smoking style. In experienced smokers who inhale deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs for some seconds before exhaling, virtually all of the cannabinoids in the mainstream smoke enter the bloodstream.”

So, plenty of THC is still present in the smote after exhaling, allowing other individuals breathing the air to get high. The variables include: how potent the strain you are smoking is and how it was consumed, dictating how much THC is still present in the exhaled smoke. There has been little research on this topic, so we will have to experiment together to get real results. I am considering a couple of experiments 1)create a gas mask for secondhand smoke and 2) create a hotbox in the shower. These are both extremes, as little to no ventilation allows a true hotbox. I’ll devise a few less extreme experiences to mimic my first contact high. 

Come back soon to see how the experiments went!