While there are many different ways to get high, smoking weed is still the most popular way to consume cannabis. When you smoke weed, you heat cannabis to the point of combustion. This process activates and releases the psychoactive compounds that get you high. However, not all the THC in your joint ends up in your blood stream. How much THC do you absorb when you smoke cannabis? And do different smoking methods (joints versus bongs) change how much THC you absorb? Let’s find out.
In 1990, Mario Perez-Reyes, a professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted a study to determine how much THC you absorb when you smoke weed. He also wanted to determine if the amount of THC you absorb varies based on whether you are smoking weed out of a bong or a joint. He found that there are a variety of factors that influence how much THC you absorb. For example, when people smoke joints that have identical amounts of THC, they can have significantly different levels of THC in their plasma. This variation is due to individual smoking styles: how many puffs you take, the volume of smoke you inhale, and how long you wait between puffs. When you smoke weed out of a bong, there is much less variation in smoking style. In theory, subjects smoking weed out of a bong should have similar peak THC plasma concentrations. However, Perez-Reyes found there was also significant variability in peak THC plasma concentrations among the bong smoking group. He concluded that “marijuana smoking is a complex process that does not permit controlled dosing. Therefore, for research or therapeutic purposes, it is indispensable to measure the THC plasma concentrations to know how efficiently a given individual smoked.” So, the amount of THC you absorb from a bong or a joint will vary based on your smoking technique. But in general, do you absorb more THC from a joint or a bong?
According to Perez-Reyes, when you smoke a joint around 40-50% of the THC in your cannabis flower is lost to “side stream” smoke. Side stream smoke refers to the smoke that is lost (not inhaled) as the cannabis burns and you wait for your next hit. So nearly half of the THC in your joint is lost to side stream smoke. When you smoke weed out of a bong, you can pack a small bowl and consume the cannabis in one inhale, eliminating the loss to side stream smoke. But that doesn’t mean you absorb all the THC in your bong bowl. When you heat cannabis to the point of combustion, a portion of the total THC is destroyed by heat (pyrolysis). Around 30% of the THC in a joint is destroyed by heat. If you smoke weed in a joint, you only absorb around 20-30% of the total THC in your flower. When you smoke weed in a bong, only around 20% of the THC is destroyed by heat. As a result, you may absorb up to 70-80% of the total THC. Based on these findings, you will probably absorb quite a bit more THC when smoking weed from a bong compared to a joint. The exact amount of THC that you absorb may vary based on your smoking technique, the device that you smoke out of, and your individual biology (for example, lung volume). If you want to get the fast-acting benefits of inhalation, but don't want to expose yourself to the chemicals formed by combustion, try a vaporizer. You can find high quality vaporizers at local smoke shops or an online vape shop.
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