Everyone has their own unique set of ‘rules’ when it comes to getting higher than high. We’ve all tried all manner of weird and wonderful things to feel a bigger buzz – some of which turn out to be more successful than others. But then there are those standards that are followed instinctively by millions of cannabis users worldwide.

One of which being the classic technique of holding in every hit you inhale for as long as physically possible.

Some argue – quite vigorously, in fact – that holding your breath after each hit is a guaranteed way of intensifying its effects. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that there was a certain amount of logic to this theory. After all, the longer you hold cannabis smoke in your lungs, the more THC makes its way into your system…right?


At the risk of bursting an abundance of bubbles worldwide, holding in hits to intensify a high really isn’t the way to go. In fact, there’s every chance you could end up doing yourself more harm than good.

Why Heavy and Prolonged Hits Are Unnecessary

To build a picture of how it all works, you first need to understand how your lungs do their job. Contrary to popular belief, the human body isn’t nearly as efficient as it could be at absorbing oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide. The average power of lungs can hold in the region of six litres of air, taken in by way of one big breath. Nevertheless, a sizeable proportion of the oxygen in the air we inhale is once again exhaled.

If our lungs were more efficient at absorbing oxygen, we’d be able to take a single breath and then not need another for quite some time. Instead, we’re forced to breathe constantly in relatively shallow breaths to compensate for this inefficiency. In total, human lungs can absorb a maximum of around 6ml of oxygen every minute. There’s nothing you can do about this limitation, which also applies to our absorption of THC.

Or to put it another way, there’s only a certain amount of THC your lungs can extract from the cannabis you inhale – irrespective of how long you hold it in.

So…Why Does Holding in Hits Get Me Higher?

Test out the theory for yourself and you’ll probably disregard all this as pure BS. Take a huge bong hit, hold your breath until you’re about to explode and release a fog of smoke accordingly. After which, you’ll probably feel infinitely ‘higher’ than had you taken just a tiny toke.

In reality however, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the cannabis or its THC content. Instead, holding a huge hit in your lungs for as long as possible simply leads to a mild form of asphyxiation. Along with denying your body and brain the oxygen it needs, you’ll also be feeling the effects of the carbon monoxide in the smoke. Hence, it’s almost inevitable you’ll feel somewhat dizzy or light-headed in the process.

Your brain might fool you into thinking it’s the cannabis that makes this happen, but it isn’t. It’s simply the same effect you’d feel if you inhaled anything (rather than fresh air) and held it in your lungs for a while.

Instant Absorption of THC

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the compounds our bodies absorb from the smoke we inhale are absorbed astonishingly fast. In fact, THC from cannabis is absorbed almost instantly. Quite literally the moment the cannabis smoke is in your lungs, approximately 95% of the THC in the cannabis will have already been absorbed. Hence, it isn’t going to make any difference whether you exhale now or later.

Just as long as you get it where it needs to be in the first place, the rest takes care of itself.

As touched upon earlier, you actually stand to do more harm than good by holding hits in your lungs for as long as possible. The reason being that cannabis smoke contains more than just the THC, CBD and other active compounds you’re interested in. Setting light to anything naturally creates toxic by-products, and even modest doses can cause irritation to the throat, lungs and so on.

Hence, the longer you hold in your hit, the more damage you stand to do to your airways. Not quite to the same extent as smoking tobacco, perhaps, but damage nonetheless. From a purely medical perspective therefore, it’s far better to stick with shorter hits – which will probably get you just as high.

How to Effectively Intensify Your High

So while it might be a bitter pill to swallow, holding in every hit for as long as possible just isn’t going to work. On the plus side, there are countless avenues to explore to intensify your high in a much safer and more effective way.

Some of the most effective of all being as follows:

  1. Choose your strains wisely

If you’re all about THC, it simply makes sense to invest in the highest THC strains you can lay your hands on. If you can’t trust your local seller to sort you out with quality bud, why not consider growing your own…assuming it’s legal to do so. Switch things up from a 15% batch to a 28% batch and you’ll soon find there’s really no need to hold your breath.

  1. Take a tolerance break

If your tolerance is no less than legendary, you could benefit from a temporary break. You don’t necessarily have to go cold-turkey, but instead think about cutting down significantly for a few weeks. After which, the strains that previously had no effect on you could do the trick.

  1. Experiment with concentrates

For obvious reasons, cannabis concentrates with THC levels of 50% or higher never fail to get the job done. If anything, you’ll need to approach concentrates with caution – unless you’re already dealing with an OTT tolerance.

  1. Try vaping

Last but not least, you could also consider swapping your faithful bong for an advanced vape pen. It might not be quite as ceremonious, but consuming vaporised cannabis helps ensure you get maximum potency from every hit, allowing next to no precious THC to go to waste.