Welcome to this week's Mythbusters! Every week, we'll explore a topic in-depth about a common question regarding marijuana. So let's take it back in time a bit, remember the first time you ever smoked marijuana back in your friends creepy basement. I'm sure your friend told you before you were about to take that hit, "hey dude, hold the hit in for as long as you can, I swear it'll get you higher!!!!" Is this advice true? Does it get you higher? Let's do some research!
To understand this question further, we need to think about what actually gets you high when you smoke marijuana. We can thank our friend, the lovely chemical compound of THC, or in scientific terms Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol. This amazing compound is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that allows us to receive this feeling of being "high". But, the most important fact here is that until THC has heat, it is a non-psychoactive compound called THCA (which we learned during last weeks mythbuster's). When THCA is heated up (during smoking, vaping, or cooking), it turns into THC. So when you prepare to hit the bong, and light up your stash - this process will turn THCA into THC causing you to feel the sensation of being high.
So now we begin to answer the true question, will you feel higher if you hold the hit in the longer? When you smoke marijuana, your main objective should be to inhale the smoke. Inside the smoke is where the THC is, and thus this is your body's opportunity to absorb as much THC as possible. But inside of this smoke, there are also a ton of toxins that you don't want your body to absorb, so there is a fine balance of THC and toxins. So what is the optimal time for holding this smoke inside your lungs?
The answer is 5 to 10 seconds. "About 95% of THC in cannabis smoke is absorbed in the first few seconds, so breath holding is quite pointless. All it really achieves is a far greater amount of tar being deposited in the lungs." said Steve Liebke in his book titled "A Cannabis User's Harm Reduction Handbook". Unfortunately, your friend was wrong. Holding your hit does nothing for your high besides for gaining an unnecessary amount of toxins in your lungs.