As legalization continues to push forward, the contact high is being more closely examined as people wonder what impacts their smoking may have on their children, their pets, friends, family, and nearby strangers.
There is some skepticism surrounding second-hand or contact high. Simply put, there aren’t any clear-cut symptoms that can’t be dismissed by simple logic. Smoke-filled rooms can indeed make one’s eyes red, and are you tired because you have a second-hand high, or because it’s 3 am?
The majority of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis is well absorbed by the lungs before you exhale, according to the research. So, while blowing smoke directly into the mouth of another person (popularized by many couples) can technically result in a bit of a high, the chances of getting high by simply being around a cannabis smoker are relatively low.
Believe it or not, the contact high is quite elusive at best. Cecilia J. Hillard, a professor of pharmacology and Medical College of Wisconsin’s Neuroscience Research Center director believes that the contact high is merely a function of placebo. She told Business Insider that lungs are very efficient when it comes to absorbing THC, therefore,
the contact high is purely a psychological phenomenon… little residual THC is present in the exhaled air.
A 2010 study by the Journal of Analytic Toxicology also backed up this assertion, concluding that passive exposure would only leave trace amounts of THC in the system of a non-smoker; not nearly enough to get them high.
In fact, the only instances where a slight high has occurred were under extreme circumstances. Hotboxing with heavy smoke (16 joints to be exact), in a small room for an hour once got subjects just as high as if they’d smoked themselves.
Those who are afraid that second-hand cannabis smoke could show up on a drug test, also have a very low chance of meeting the THC-OOOH threshold. If you’re still really concerned about this, be sure to exercise and drink water to burn off any trace amounts of THC in your system.
Otherwise, being around smokers doesn’t seem to get you high and any additional giggles might be chalked up to the placebo effect. Just being around goofy smokers can be fun in and of itself.
But as far as second-hand smoke is concerned, we all know that cigarette smoke is the worst, however, carcinogens and materials from blunts or tobacco papers could still be a cause for concern around a more sensitive population.
So, it’s not a bad idea to exercise caution around children, pets, the elderly and those who might be prone to respiratory illnesses, just in case.