by Karen Jans
Most folks already know that consuming cannabis is a significantly healthier alternative to other activities, like smoking cigarettes, imbibing alcohol, or licking doorknobs. But here at The Joint, our staff often hear even seasoned smokers engaging in some unhealthy habits in an attempt to stay high. However, research shows some of these tactics can do more harm than good. Here are a few tips on how to get high in healthier ways and tone down all that hacking and coughing:
- Stop holding in your hits. Even veteran tokers will swear that taking a hit and holding it in as long as you can will get you higher. But several studies have shown that holding hits has no effect on the experience of the smoker. Found in a study by Zachny in 1991, holding in hits with a placebo cannabis can create a lightheaded, dizzying experience for the smoker, imitating the effects of cannabis. This is most likely due to lack of oxygen circulation. Absorption of the cannabis happens almost instantaneously when smoke or vapor enters the lungs. Just like holding your breath doesn’t mean you absorb more oxygen, holding your hits only increases carbon monoxide in the lungs without increase the amount of THC that enters your system. For consumers who insist on this ritual, try taking your hit, exhaling completely, and then holding your breath. You’ll likely achieve the same effect, but less coughing overall.
- Don’t smoke resin. Some of you are probably gagging at the thought, but there are at least some of you sheepishly thinking back to that one time you were out of weed and out of money and decided to scrape whatever you could out of the bowl of your pipe into a gooey ball of black tar. Resin, not to be confused with the resinous glands of the cannabis plant, refers to the black residue left on smoking pieces after burning a bowl. Some people turn to resin bowls in times of deep monetary desperation in an attempt to get stoned without buying more weed. The problem is that heat destroys cannabinoids, leaving only trace amounts of psychoactive properties in the black resin, while significantly increasing the smoker’s exposure to tars and noxious gases which must be burnt at even higher temperatures. Smoking resin will only maybe kinda sorta get you a little high, but it will definitely make you cough like crazy, hurt your lungs, and expose you to some truly nasty gunk.
- Most stoners already realize that if they are concerned about lung health, the best option is to avoid inhalation. Edibles, tinctures, topicals, and transdermal patches are ideal options for folks looking to bypass breathing in smoke or vapor, but still stay stoney. Edibles provide a long-lasting, body-oriented high, but they can take a while to kick in. Tinctures placed under the tongue provide a similar experience and can affect the consumer a little more quickly through sublingual absorption. Transdermal patches tend to be longest lasting, but can take up to three hours after application for users to feel its effects.
- For folks looking for the immediacy of inhalation without the carcinogens of combustion, vaporizing “leads to blood levels of THC comparable to smoking a joint, but without raising expired carbon monoxide (Abrams 2007).” Vaporizers can come in a multitude of forms, from flower vaporizing machines shaped like volcanoes, to on-the-go kits with interchangeable attachments for vaporizing flower and concentrates, to ready-to-go cartridges that screw onto vape pen batteries, and the ever-popular method of dabbing. Whatever form you wish to vaporize in, the theory is the same: vaporizing heats the cannabis product enough to volatize it without combustion.
Dabbing refers to the process in which someone uses a blowtorch to heat a nail (generally made from titanium, quartz, ceramic, or glass and situated where the bowl piece would be on any water rig or bong). The person then lets the nail cool down to about 300-400 degrees (about 20-30 seconds after the red-orange glow disappears, depending on the nail) and dabs a small amount of concentrated cannabis extract (also called wax, oil, BHO, shatter, etc.) which melts into a vapor that can be cooled through water before being inhaled by the consumer. Dabs provide a concentration of cannabis, some extraction methods producing oil up to 98% THC, so a small amount can deliver a huge high. Vapor can be considerably less harsh on the lungs than smoke, especially when the dabber takes care to ensure their nail has cooled down enough to take a low-temperature dab. If you dab too hot, you’ll end up burning your oil, which tastes terrible, hurts your lungs like the dickens, and destroys a lot of the cannabinoids you’re trying to consume.
Despite dabbing’s ability to intimidate novice smokers, dabbing can provide even higher highs than traditional smoking with the potential for much less lung irritation when done properly. Ask your budtender for more information if you’re interested in trying an alternative method of consuming cannabis but are unsure where to begin.
- But there are still plenty of times when smoking flower is exactly what you’re in the mood for. Despite popular belief, smoking through a water filtering pipe or bong “do not appear to decrease the amount of tar and particles in smoke (Doblin 2004).” But since waterpipes cool the smoke or vapor, they can help decrease irritation in the lungs and throat when smoking. The best way to go when smoking flower is to go for quality. The better the quality of the cannabis, the less you have to smoke to achieve the desired experience.
Quality doesn’t just come down to the percentage of THC, either! Cannabis connoisseurs know that there’s more to quality than test numbers or cost. Talk with your local budtender about pinpointing the best quality products at the price-point ideal for you.
Smoking weed doesn’t have to break the bank or your airways. By maintaining these healthier smoking habits, you can worry less about your lungs and more about what you’re going to snack on to deal with that gnarly case of the munchies.