Saturday July 15, 2017

By Morgan Smith


You may already have your own answer to this question. Or you may be a newbie cannabis consumer and just want to know. While there are certainly a slew of opinions online, we want to get down to the bottom of it.

First things first, we want to start by busting the myth that holding in your hit for longer means you’ll experience a better high. You might be thinking, “I actually do feel higher when I hold it longer.” And yes, this is partially true—but only because you’re depriving your brain of oxygen which means you’re more likely to feel light headed.

A 1997 study determined that our lungs can only take in so much—5-6 ml oxygen per minute to be exact. And Australian studies indicate that 95% of the THC in cannabis is absorbed within the first few seconds of inhaling. So, no matter how deep you breathe or how long you hold, there’s a limit.

Consumption Method Matters

The most important aspect to note when determining how long to hold your hit in is the method of consumption. Cannabinoid absorption differs depending on the type of consumption method because your body absorbs cannabinoids through each technique differently.

One way to explain these differences is by looking at bioavailability. Bioavailability is the process where substances are absorbed by tissues and organs, or rather, how likely it is for the molecules in cannabinoids to pass through the gastrointestinal tract liver filtration system and then be put to work. Smoking delivers cannabinoids at an average bioavailability rate of 30% where edibles deliver cannabinoids at an average bioavailability rate of 5%. This means that only 5% of a product’s cannabinoid content will get absorbed into the bloodstream.

This is also why edibles take much longer to kick in. They have to endure a long process throughout the body first. But because smoking marijuana produces an oxidization process, cannabinoid absorption is relatively high. This is because molecules do not pass through the acidic stomach environment, but rather go into the bloodstream through the lungs.

Long story short: The higher the bioavailability, the lower dosage you need to produce the desired result.

Holding in Your Hits

Cannabinoids from combusted cannabis are absorbed rather quickly, so holding in your hit too long will result in unwanted absorption of smoke and tars. In fact, approximately 88% of combusted smoke gasses (think joints and bongs) contain non-cannabinoid elements.

Smoking produces a rapid effect that lasts for a short time due to its high bioavailability, so the general recommendation is that holding it for a few seconds should do the trick.

Holding it any longer than that is just a waste. Holding a huge hit just produces more smoke than your lungs can handle and it can’t go anywhere but out.

Cannabis that is vaporized or dabbed, on the other hand, is cleaner and contains less tars or other non-cannabis elements (It’s also perceived as much safer than smoking). Some say that nearly 95% of cannabinoids are inhaled through vaporization. But when looking at bioavailability, it’s about the same as combusted cannabis.

Because you’re only consuming vapor though, holding in your hit slightly longer when vaporizing or dabbing won’t absorb any extra tars or smoke. Although each vaporizer and consumer can alter the dosage, you should still generally hold your hit for a few seconds to get the best results.

Smoking a joint has a much higher bioavailability than edibles, yielding quicker effects.

Don’t Hold Your Hit Longer, Inhale Deeper

If you’re inhaling from a joint or blunt, your lungs expand to pick up oxygen and the cannabinoids to then pass them to your blood vessels. This transportation process runs throughout your entire body and is how you get high.

Instead of holding your hit for as long as possible, consider inhaling it more deeply into your lungs.

Deeper breathing fills the lungs with up to five liters of air (shallow breathing only gets you 0.5 liters) which gives cannabis more room to enter the bloodstream.

Although there is much speculation on how long to hold a hit in, there does seem to be some consensus on a magic number. Many sources say that three seconds is the prime hold time. It’s just enough to give your lungs the right amount of time to move as many cannabinoids as possible to your bloodstream while preventing your brain from being too deprived of oxygen.

So, to get the most out of your next cannabis purchase, think about how you’re consuming your marijuana and take each hit appropriately. Consider inhaling a bit of clean air after a rip and take time between hits to let your body absorb the cannabinoids at their own speed. We always encourage experimentation, so get out a timer and run some tests to discover the best time and intensity for you.

How long do you hold your hits in? Comment below!

Photo Credit: Chuck Grimmett (license)

Morgan Smith Morgan Smith

A born and raised Hoosier and Indiana University alumna, Morgan Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in the Denver area. Morgan has worked with B2B, nonprofit and regional publications, but especially enjoys learning and educating others about the inner-workings of the cannabis industry. Her freelance writing supported her recent six-month solo backpacking trip to South America where she climbed volcanoes, played with llamas and jumped off a bridge.

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