How to inhale weed without going overboard
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- How to inhale weed properly
- How to avoid inhaling too much
Every stoner begins as a novice and learning how to inhale weed is the first step of every toker’s journey. Since breathing is a natural process that occurs thousands of times per day, it’s strange to contemplate “how to inhale.” Nevertheless, all first-time smokers start somewhere, and proper breathing technique is essential to maximizing the cannabis experience.
A proper breathing technique is essential to maximizing the cannabis experience. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Most first-timers hit their joint like they’re smoking a cigarette without actually breathing the smoke into their lungs. If the smoke isn’t fully inhaled into the lungs, it only travels into the throat and nasal passages, which absorb THC, thus wasting precious cannabinoids. This is why many first-time tokers fail to get high.
Read on to learn how to avoid coughing and choking while making the most of every cannabis hit.
How to inhale weed properly
Proper inhalation techniques stem from the same basic principles and vary slightly depending on whether you’re smoking a joint, hitting a bong, or using a vaporizer.
When smoking, you’re burning cannabis to the point of combustion and inhaling the smoke to deliver cannabinoids into your bloodstream. Smoking can be painful for lungs, so it’s important to take slow, measured draws to minimize irritation. Start with shallow inhalations and draw more deeply as you progress and become more comfortable.
Here’s a handy technique to ensure your lungs absorb the maximum amount of THC: slowly inhale about two-thirds of your hit and follow up with a deep, inhaled gulp of air. The fresh air pushes the cannabis smoke down into the lungs and should improve THC’s absorption. There’s no need to hold your inhale for long. THC and other cannabinoids may act as bronchodilators, which means they increase airflow, speeding absorption.
Slowly inhale about two-thirds of your hit and follow up with a deep, inhaled gulp of air. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
After your first toke, consider waiting 5-10 minutes to observe the onset of effects and then deciding whether you need more.
How to avoid inhaling too much
Some cannabis consumption methods are more harsh than others. Blunts and spliffs include tobacco, which damages the lungs. Joints and pipes, which contain cannabis only, may be less harmful. Similarly, smoking marijuana out of a bong or bubbler cools the otherwise harsh cannabis smoke by filtering it through water.
Smoking marijuana out of a bong or bubbler cools the otherwise harsh cannabis smoke by filtering it through water. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Start slow as you pull through your pipe or bong, gulping a breath of fresh air after you clear the chamber. The gulp helps you absorb the THC fully. You can always take deeper hits as you become more comfortable and understand how to control your dose.
Vaporizing weed is less harsh on the lungs than smoke, but many cannabis consumers report a more intense high with this method. Cannabis vaporizes at a much lower temperature than its burning point, thus preserving the cannabinoids and terpenes otherwise lost in combustion.
Vaporizing weed is less harsh on the lungs than smoke. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
When vaping cannabis, whether in oil or flower form, it’s better to take shallower hits and hold them for slightly less time than you would hold cannabis smoke. Take time between hits to assess how you feel and decide whether you’d like to consume more.
How to inhale weed without going overboard Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents How to inhale weed properly How to avoid inhaling too much
Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?