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Are Cannabis Contact Highs Real?

Are contact highs a real occurrence, and if so, why might we feel them? In this blog article, we answer these questions and more.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Apr. 1, 2022 · 4 min read
Are Cannabis Contact Highs Real?

Are contact highs a real occurrence, and if so, why might we feel them? In this blog article, we answer these questions and more.

If you’ve ever been at a party or other such social gathering where cannabis is being consumed while you’re not partaking, you have likely wondered a few things. If I inhale too much cannabis smoke, will I catch a high? Will the THC be in my system and cause me to fail a drug test? Will I be too stoned to drive? No worries, because we’ve got you covered.

What is a Contact High?

If you are around people consuming cannabis but not actually consuming yourself, you may experience the phenomenon known as a contact high. This is when you feel a cannabis-like effect after coming into contact with someone who might be under the influence.

This is mostly thought of as occurring when non-consumers inhale second-hand cannabis smoke, but some studies do suggest that the contact high phenomenon is more psychological than we may think. According to research, it comes down to the power of suggestion.

For instance, how many times have your friends been laughing at something, and while you’re clueless about what it could be that’s so funny, you laugh with them? How about crying, or even running away from something others are? You get the idea.

When someone is high around us, we might feel high too, whether by the power of suggestion, the Placebo effect, or whatever it is. But can we get a contact high if you inhale smoke containing THC?

Can I Really Get a Contact High?

There were several studies conducted in the 1980s aimed at researching contact highs, but those are outdated. These studies were mostly biased, and existed mainly to “prove” that cannabis caused lung cancer, all of which found the exact opposite! Thankfully that prohibitionist mindset and those conclusions are not relevant today, and some updated research exists.

In a study from 2015 called “Non-Smoker Exposure to Secondhand Cannabis Smoke,” researchers observed 12 participants, half of which were consumers, the other half were not. The consumers each were given 10 joints of low THC potency, around 11%.

Basically, the smokers hotboxed in a small, unventilated room for an hour, and the non-smokers sat there. Then the experiment was repeated a second time, only with the room ventilated. As you may have guessed, being exposed to smoke from sixty joints in an hour did cause some subtle differences. The non-smokers did feel a little bit high, and THC was found to be present in both their bloodstreams and their urine.

The ventilation in the second experiment saw the non-consumers feeling no effects, indicating that inhaling smoke in the closed space is what gave them the contact high. This is a highly unlikely scenario in this study and one that is typical for much of the research we have on cannabis at this point.

These studies far too often take things to some kind of extreme to prove a prohibitionist point that might not even be relevant to reality. Even the heaviest daily cannabis smokers would never smoke 10 joints in an hour!

At any rate, the non-smokers did get a slight contact high, and THC was found in their bodies. This leads to our next question: will a contact high cause me to fail a drug test?

Will I Fail My Drug Test?

Even though the above study is extreme, it does have some truth to it. If you enter an unventilated space filled with cannabis smoke and you inhale for a while, you run the risk of testing positive for THC. The tests will likely be a trace amount, but there nevertheless.

If you’re in a place where there’s ventilation and someone is smoking, or you smell smoke, you’ll be just fine. This brings us to our next point: always be considerate of your consumption.

"If you enter an unventilated space filled with cannabis smoke and you inhale for a while, you run the risk of testing positive for THC."

Always Consume Responsibly

Part of consuming responsibly means being considerate of those around you who don't smoke. For obvious reasons, cannabis smoke is less prevalent than tobacco smoke, especially in public, but putting smoke into the air is still something to be aware of when you’re around others.

Always give others the option to leave an unventilated space if they feel uncomfortable with your smoke. Never smoke around children or pets. Exposing people to unwanted secondhand cannabis smoke is never okay.

HashDash is Supporting the Cannabis Community

We hope you found value in our article about cannabis contact highs. Did you learn something, or have anything to add? Let us know, we are @hashdash on all platforms, except for Instagram, where we are @hashdashdotcom.

Check back to our blog often, because we post fresh content regularly!

HashDash is building a vast knowledge database of guides, articles, and a first-of-its-kind cannabis matching platform to pair you up with your perfect cultivars. Don’t forget to sign up for HashDash to discover your cannabis matches.

Thanks for reading! Please consume responsibly. Always treat this incredible plant with the respect it deserves.

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.
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