Does Coughing REALLY Get You Higher?

I’m sure you have all heard that coughing from marijuana smoke will get you higher. As a matter of fact, you were probably gasping for air and clutching your chest when someone said that to you for the first time.

But, if you take a second and think about it, it doesn’t make any sense.

Coughing is your bodies’ way of removing irritants in your throat. You cough because an irritant stimulates nerves that signal your brain to react with the coughing impulse. Your brain then signals the muscles in your abdomen and chest to force air to your lungs in hopes that it will remove the irritant from your throat. In our case, the irritant is smoke.

Most individuals cough after they take too big of a hit — right off the bat, they are taking in more smoke than usual. The more smoke your lungs are exposed to, the higher you get.

But anyway, let’s say you take too big of a hit and you start coughing. When you cough, your muscles are forcing oxygen out of your body. We all know from personal experience that a coughing fit can last a while. For the majority of your coughing fit, you will be forcing oxygen out of your body, therefore, your oxygen intake is less than usual. Due to the lack of oxygen, your body goes through minor o2 deprivation. This results in a lightheaded feeling.

Shortly afterward, you will be high and feel lightheaded. You are not actually any higher than you would have been if you didn’t cough. Coughing does not increase the amount of THC that enters your blood stream; actually, you will most likely get higher if you don’t cough. If you cough any time before you are ready to exhale (i.e.: mid-draw), you are not filling your lungs with the maximum volume of smoke that they can hold.

Some people may argue that coughing causes smoke to hit parts of your lungs that it normally wouldn’t touch. However, deep breathing is the real reason for the increased surface area of your lungs; deep breathing also happens to be the reason you’re coughing in the first place.

When you take a breath, oxygen passes through your alveoli and then diffuses into your blood stream. The deeper you inhale, the more oxygen will pass through your alveoli and into your blood stream. This explains why taking deep breathing is a relaxation technique — because your levels of nitric oxide increase.

Deep breathes = more oxygen passing through your alveoli, which in turn = more oxygen entering your bloodstream. Now replace oxygen with THC. When you deeply inhale cannabis smoke, more THC passes through your alveoli and into your blood stream. The result: you feel higher than usual. Coughing never had anything to do with it. Coughing is simply a side effect from inhaling the smoke too deeply — nothing more, nothing less. #LearnTheScience


#LearnTheScience is a campaign started by Patrick Thompson, the co-founder of OpenStrain. The campaign aims to do away with the misconceptions surrounding marijuana by replacing the fiction with facts. Thompson hopes that educating readers throughout the world will bring countries one step closer to medical and/or recreational marijuana legalization.

 Look out for information regarding how you can get involved in the #LearnTheScience campaign.


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Author: Patrick Thompson

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