Cannabis & Coughing
Anyone who’s ever smoked marijuana has no doubt had the experience of violently coughing after taking a hit. But what causes this to happen sometimes, and not others? And when you cough from a toke, does it make you higher as stoner-legend has it? We’ve got the facts for you.
Why Does Weed Make You Cough?
The most obvious reason is that your lungs just aren’t designed to breathe in smoke. The smoke of any kind, including marijuana smoke, consists of microscopic stable, liquid particles. These things irritate the lungs and make it harder for your body to breathe. As a result, your brain signals to your lungs to start coughing to expel these foreign objects so that normal breathing can be restored.
However, this effect can be tempered with experience. Like every other organ system, your lungs are incredibly adaptive. They can be ‘trained’ to cough less, or not at all if you’re a seasoned smoker. That’s why your first time smoking cannabis almost certainly involved a lot of coughing, and for many that effect lessened over time.
Can’t Take The Heat
Heat also plays a significant role in why you cough after taking a hit. Smoking works to get you high because the intense heat ‘activates’ the THC in the plant, the psychoactive chemical. This allows it to quickly get into your bloodstream so that you feel the effects.
A byproduct of this intense heat is lung irritation. Your lungs and its sensitive tissues are easily irritated by the hot smoke which also causes you to cough. That’s why using a water pipe like a bong is so effective at reducing coughing – it cools down the smoke before it enters your lungs. Ice cubes in your bong are another way this can be achieved.
Any smoker knows that if you take a rip too big for you, then you’ll start coughing as well. The more lung capacity you have, the more smoke your lungs can hold. Like a balloon, your lungs can only hold so much in them. If you over-fill a balloon, it pops.
Your lungs, on the other hand, are forced to expel the smoke in some other way. That’s why getting too confident with your hit size can lead to a coughing fit.
Lastly, the quality of your product has a significant effect on how likely it is to make you cough. An unfortunate reality is that less-than-reputable cannabis is often grown with pesticides and other additives, in addition to possibly having dust or mildew. These things in and of themselves are irritating to your lungs, and exposing yourself to them will increase your risk of coughing.
But if you’re looking to get blasted, do you want to be coughing?
Does Coughing Make You Higher?
This question may be as old as the plant itself. Many stoners claim that if you cough from smoking, you’ll get more high than if you don’t. The prevailing theory is that coughing expands the lungs which result in more surface area being exposed to the smoke.
The reason that the lungs expand, though, is due to a forceful inhalation of air followed immediately by a cough, which is letting out all the smoke in your lungs. Since it’s the smoke that gets you high, and coughing quickly rids you of the smoke, it seems that coughing wouldn’t make you more high at all.
The reason it may seem that way is that when you cough, you probably took in more smoke than your lungs could hold. So despite coughing it back out, taking such a massive hit would still result in the experimenter getting somewhat intoxicated. In short, taking a huge hit is what causes both the coughing and the feeling of being extra high rather than the coughing bringing about a sense of being extra high in and of itself. Instead, the best way to maximize your intake would be to take as big of a hit as your body will allow without causing you to cough.