Waiting to Exhale: Does it Really Make a Difference if You Hold it in Longer?


There’s plenty of myth surrounding how long to hold in a hit, with many people believing that it leads to a higher high. For those who are curious, there are actually some instances of published, scientific studies that explore how long to hold in a hit and how increasing breath hold times can affect your smoke sesh.

Does Holding in Smoke Make You Higher?

A few published studies have been able to measure increased levels of THC absorption in the bloodstream following long breath holds. However, looking at a study that examined the subjective effects of holding in a hit, smokers who held in their inhalations for 10-20 seconds did not report feeling any higher than smokers who didn’t hold in their breath at all. A few sources speculated that any enhanced feelings of intoxication were due to reduced oxygen flow to the brain. This is all to say that, no, holding in smoke isn’t going to get you higher from your hit. There are other effects, though, of holding in your hit that you might want to consider the next time you smoke.

Carbon Monoxide Levels

Another study found that breath hold duration didn’t necessarily make a person feel higher, but it did significantly increase the amount of carbon monoxide absorbed into the bloodstream; this effect was seen in both a marijuana cigarette as well as a placebo. Carbon monoxide absorption follows the inhalation of smoke of any kind, and the body clears it from the bloodstream within hours.

Acute carbon monoxide inhalation can be fatal, but the amount you’re getting from holding in your hit isn’t putting you at risk for negative health outcomes; you’d have to smoke an impossible amount of weed in one sitting to die of smoke inhalation. However, if you’re someone who likes to hit the gym while high, know that the increased amount of carbon monoxide in your blood will make your workout harder. Your body won’t be able to efficiently deliver oxygen from your lungs to you muscles. Using a tincture or edibles will ensure that you can get the most out of your weed-infused workout.

Breath Hold Time Increases Tar Deposition

One thing is for sure: holding in a hit of your bong, blunt, joint, or pipe increases the level of tar that gets deposited into your lungs. One study found that marijuana smokers actually inhale three times the amount of tar that tobacco smokers do when smoking. However, the twist in this research is that regular cannabis users are no more at risk for lung cancer than never-smokers of tobacco, despite the fact that smokers of high-tar tobacco cigarettes have the highest risk of lung cancer relative to other tobacco smokers.

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