The Dangers of the Contact High – Fact or Faked?

Many people have heard of the phenomenon known as a contact high. This is the theory that you can get high from being around those who smoke even though you did not actually take a puff. Now some smokers will swear up and down that this is not a real thing and you are perfectly safe to hang around in their cloud of smoke. So do you believe them and stay? How bad could it really be? Everyone says weed is safer than cigarettes. What about your job? Do you want to take the chance that you might test positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a random drug test? Let’s dig deeper and take a look at the dangers of a contact high.


Secondhand Smoke: Is it Dangerous?

Numerous studies on the effects of secondhand cigarette smoke have been performed over the years. The majority concluded that millions of nonsmokers have died due to smoke-related illnesses. So how is it that nonsmokers are dying of smoke-related illnesses? The secondhand smoke is the cause. When you are around the smoke, at least some of it is inhaled, and this smoke contains all those harmful chemicals that are in the cigarettes. Essentially, if you can smell a cigarette burning, you are inhaling some of the smoke. This is the case with anything burning, even marijuana. Is weed smoke as harmful as cigarette smoke?

Does Weed Smoke Harm the Lungs?

There is still a debate on whether or not smoking weed is harmful to your lungs. Take a look at your piece. When is the last time you cleaned it? If it has been awhile, you will notice a brown tacky substance throughout it. This is known as resin. The resin is mainly tar with very minimal amounts of THC in it. If this resin can stick to the smooth sides of your bowl, it will most certainly stick to the cilia of your respiratory system. Tar can damage the cilia. Ironically, cilia’s job is to clean out dangerous, foreign substances that end up in the lungs. One good thing is that your body will begin to repair any damage caused by smoking as soon as you stop. Marijuana cigarettes do not usually have filters and are packed more loosely than tobacco cigarettes, because of this, smoking marijuana deposits 4 times as much tar into your lungs when you smoke it than cigarettes do.

Habitual weed users report having a “normal” cough. This has been termed the “smoker’s cough”. Daily smokers even report coughing up phlegm on a regular basis. Some people may not have a problem with this, but a constant cough can grow old quick. Have you ever coughed so much that your chest hurts? That’s because it is possible to pull a muscle from coughing so hard. In some extreme cases, some people have even cracked ribs from coughing. Already having a constant cough can make catching a common cold nearly unbearable.

Most Recent Tests

With the popularity of marijuana growing, more tests are being conducted on its effects. John Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted a study in 2015 to determine if the contact high is real. The test consisted of placing non-smokers and smokers in a room together. Each room had six smokers and 6 nonsmokers inside, one room was well ventilated, while the other was poorly ventilated. The smokers were 10 marijuana cigarettes to smoke within the hour, while the non-smokers were expected to breathe normally. All subjects were tested after the smoke session ended. In the poorly ventilated room, all non-smoking participants tested positive for THC. One participant’s THC levels were even high enough to fail a standard workplace drug test. None of the non-smokers from the ventilated room tested positive for THC, however, they did report feeling pleasant, hungry, and tired. The study concluded that these results prove the contact high exists, but does it really?

The Placebo Effect

How can someone without THC in their system experience the side effects of THC? Are the people who have reported experiencing a contact high merely feeling the placebo effect? The placebo effect is when someone takes what they think is medicine and expects the results to be the same as the medicine is said to produce. However, even though they did not take the medicine, they believe in the expected results of the medicine so much that their body, in turn, produces the expected results. Many tests have documented the results of the placebo effect with some unbelievable results. Some places have even documented that the placebo effect has reduced the size of tumors.  Since tests of the placebo effect have demonstrated such phenomenal results, it is not too outlandish that skeptics blame the placebo effect for the “contact high” people experience.

Weed Potency

The potency of weed has increased dramatically. The potency of weed is nearly 3 times that of the strength of weed from the 1980’s. Any avid weed smoker will tell you that the stronger the weed, the less you need to get high. Therefore, the potency of the weed could affect whether or not those around experience a contact high or not. There are three typical levels for weed: Regular, Mid-grade, and Dro. Regular is the lowest potency and the cheapest while Dro is the strongest potency and the most expensive. It is logical that if someone was smoking Dro in a poorly ventilated room that they would feel the effects of the Dro more than if they were just smoking Regular marijuana.

Is it Worth the Risk?

Tests have proven that if you are in an unventilated area where someone is smoking pot, you could test positive for THC on a standard workplace drug test. Those who do not smoke weed regularly will have no tolerance for THC. If you have enough THC in your system to fail that drug test and you do not usually smoke, chances are really good that you felt the effects of the smoke you inhaled. There is some weed out there that even an experienced smoker can take one hit off of and still feel the effects. The quality and quantity of the weed smoked in your presence is going to have the biggest effect on whether or not you feel a contact high. Be sure to consider the risks next time your buddy wants you to “chill” with him.