Smoking marijuana

How Long Does a High Last?

Whether you’re new to using cannabis or you’re a seasoned smoker, you may be wondering about how long a high lasts. The high refers to the euphoric, mind-altering effects caused by THC. Before you get started, it can be useful to know what to expect when eating, smoking, or vaping cannabis.

On average, the high from smoked or vaped cannabis flowers tends to last for 1-2 hours, while with edible cannabis products, it can last more than 4 hours 1 MacCallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European journal of internal medicine, 49, 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004 . This can vary from person to person because there are a variety of factors that determine how long a high lasts for. These include dosage, strength, route of administration, tolerance, and context.

What Does Being High Mean?

The term ‘high’ refers to the sensory and psychological effects of consuming cannabis. Getting high is to cannabis as getting drunk is to alcohol.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis 2 Wachtel, .S., ElSohly, .M., Ross, .S. et al. Comparison of the subjective effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana in humans. Psychopharmacology 161, 331–339 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-002-1033-2 . Most cannabis used for recreational and medical purposes contains THC, however some varieties contain more CBD with no THC. Cannabis products containing THC are psychoactive and cause the effect of being high, whereas the effects of CBD are considered non-intoxicating because it does not elicit the same behavioral response.

The effects of a cannabis high include euphoria, relaxation, heightened sensory perception, increased appetite, increased laughter, and the sensation that time has slowed down 3 Green, B., Kavanagh, D., Young, R. (2009). Being stoned: a review of self-reported cannabis effects. Drug and Alcohol Review, 22(4), 453-460. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09595230310001613976 .

Factors Affecting How Long a High Lasts

There are many factors that affect the duration of a high, including personal tolerance and metabolism, which is why it’s difficult to give estimates or rules of thumb that work for everyone.

Form of THC Consumption

The route of administration impacts both the onset of the high and the total duration.

One of the most common methods of consuming THC is to smoke or vaporize dried cannabis flowers. Inhalation methods tend to cause a high within minutes, and the high generally lasts 1-2 hours, depending on many factors 4 Ashton, C. (2001). Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: A brief review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178(2), 101-106. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/pharmacology-and-effects-of-cannabis-a-brief-review/82B02735F420CB287DCC80843FC34AE1 .

Dabbing is another inhalation method, which involves concentrated cannabis oil. Because it is so strong, the high tends to come on almost instantly and can last about the same length of time.

With edible cannabis products, the THC must be processed by the digestive system before the effects are felt. It can take 30-120 minutes to feel the effects of edible cannabis 4 Ashton, C. (2001). Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: A brief review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178(2), 101-106. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/pharmacology-and-effects-of-cannabis-a-brief-review/82B02735F420CB287DCC80843FC34AE1 . When consumed by mouth, THC is converted in the liver into 11-OH THC, a form of THC that may be stronger, more psychoactive, and longer lasting 5, 6 Schwilke, E. W., Schwope, D. M., Karschner, E. L., Lowe, R. H., Darwin, W. D., Kelly, D. L., Goodwin, R. S., Gorelick, D. A., Huestis, M. A. (2009). Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 11-Hydroxy-THC, and 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC Plasma Pharmacokinetics during and after Continuous High-Dose Oral THC. Clinical Chemistry, 55(12), 2180-2189. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196989/ . So, while a high from edibles takes longer to come on, it also tends to last longer and hit harder.

Quantity of THC Consumed

Quantity is perhaps the most obvious contributor to how long a high lasts. The amount of cannabis a person consumes can certainly affect how intense the high is, but may also impact how long the effects are felt for 7 Maccallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 49, 12-19. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004 . The lingering effects after the main high may also be more apparent when the initial dose is higher.

Metabolism

Metabolism is the body’s process of breaking down THC. This process takes place at different rates in different people. As with many different drugs, some people may naturally break down THC faster than others, which would cause their high to be relatively shorter.

Tolerance and Awareness

Someone who is inexperienced will tend to be more aware of the effects of THC. Also, frequent cannabis users may have a tolerance, meaning their bodies have adapted to the THC such that they are less sensitive to it.

Strain and Terpenes Being Consumed

Scientists believe the profile of cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis can impact its effects on the body 8 Russo, B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol., 163(7), 1344-1364. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/ .

Compounds like CBD can temper with the THC high, reducing its effects and making it somewhat less intense. The many terpenes and cannabinoids in a strain of cannabis contribute to what is called the entourage effect, where the compounds alter the effects of one another, modifying the overall effect.

Environment and Surroundings

There is some evidence that suggests the environment contributes to a person’s drug tolerance. That is, in familiar surroundings, a person may be able to handle a larger dose than they would in unfamiliar surroundings. With drugs like opioids, the environment can make the difference between a fatal and non-fatal overdose 9 Gerevich, J., Bácskai, E., Farkas, L., Danics, Z. (2005). A case report: Pavlovian conditioning as a risk factor of heroin ‘overdose’ death. Harm reduction journal, 2, 11. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1196296/ . When it comes to cannabis, it may simply mean a smaller dose is required to achieve the same high in unfamiliar surroundings.

How Long Does a High Last?

When a person smokes a bowl, eats an edible, or takes a dab, they are committing to being high for a certain period of time, generally for at least 1-2 hours. While many factors contribute to how long and intense each high is, there are some general rules of thumb that can help guide your decisions. The length of your high can be understood as the product of the dose and concentration, your metabolism and tolerance, and the method of administration.

For example, a high dose, low tolerance, and a stronger method of administration such as dabbing would result in a strong, longer-lasting high. Alternatively, a low dose, high tolerance or quick metabolism, and a milder method of administration such as smoking would result in a weaker and shorter high.

Here is a helpful table providing an approximate guide to the onset and length of the high from different forms of cannabis. While more mainstream methods of consuming cannabis, like smoking and edibles, have been studied in the lab, the information about dabbing concentrates comes from online self-reports 1 MacCallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European journal of internal medicine, 49, 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004 .

If you are wondering how long a high lasts, how long edibles last, or how to compare the different methods of consumption, this should help clear things up.

Method of Consumption Time to Full Onset Length of High
Dried flower: smoking & vaping ~5-10 minutes 1-2 hours, with lingering effects for up to 4 hours
Edibles 60-180 minutes 3-4 hours, with lingering effects for up to 8 hours
Concentrates: dabbing Seconds to minutes 1-3 hours, with lingering effects for up to a day

First-Timer Tips

If you are thinking of trying cannabis for the first time, it is a good idea to have a plan. There are many things you can do to ensure a fun, pleasant experience. Here are some of our best tips for first-time cannabis users.

Start low and go slow. The golden rule when consuming cannabis is to start at a low dose and only increase it slowly. If you’re smoking a joint, try just taking one puff first and see how that feels. You can always have more, but you can’t unsmoke something you have already smoked.

Try an inhalation method first – not edibles. Edible cannabis is known to be more intense and harder to dose. Because of how long edibles last, they are not usually recommended for new users. It also takes quite a while to feel the effects, and some newbies make the mistake of eating more before the first dose hits them.

Make sure you are in a safe environment. Try cannabis with a trusted friend or group of friends, in familiar surroundings. This can help lessen any anxiety or discomfort that may occur.

Be aware of your own mental health. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, or paranoid, it may not be a good day to try cannabis.

Last Toke of Advice

Overall, you can expect a cannabis high to last 1-2 hours, with some lingering after-effects for up to 4 hours. Remember that for edibles, the high can take up to 2 hours to come on and can last 3-4 hours, with lingering effects for up to 8 hours.

Some people may be wondering whether it is possible to bring down a cannabis high. The short answer is no. Most of the time, you will have to wait out the high in a safe place. However, there is some evidence that the terpene compounds in cannabis may contribute to the overall effect. The terpene pinene is found in some strains of cannabis and is also found in black pepper. Some limited evidence suggests it may improve mental clarity 8 Russo, B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol., 163(7), 1344-1364. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/ . This has led some people to recommend chewing on black pepper when you’re on a high that is too strong.

While you cannot easily end a cannabis high, you can do things to make yourself more comfortable. If you feel that you are too high, the first thing you can do is get to a safe setting to ride it out. A couch or a bed is a good, comfortable place. Remind yourself that the peak of a cannabis high does not last that long and that you will start to come down soon. Feel assured that you will likely feel a little better in 30 minutes. Drinking some extra water may help with symptoms like a dry mouth. Finally, you can take comfort in knowing that no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose 10 Vyas, M. B., LeBaron, V. T., Gilson, A. M. (2018). The use of cannabis in response to the opioid crisis: A review of the literature. Nursing Outlook, 66(1), 56-65. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0029655417302865 .

With the right planning and understanding, you can avoid an unpleasant experience by managing the many factors that contribute to how long a high lasts. Factors such as route of administration, quantity, tolerance, metabolism, setting, and strain are all important. When anything in your cannabis routine changes, like a new strain, a new environment, or a new vaporizer, a good rule of thumb is to always start low and go slow.

Sources
  1. MacCallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European journal of internal medicine, 49, 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004
  2. Wachtel, .S., ElSohly, .M., Ross, .S. et al. Comparison of the subjective effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana in humans. Psychopharmacology 161, 331–339 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-002-1033-2
  3. Green, B., Kavanagh, D., Young, R. (2009). Being stoned: a review of self-reported cannabis effects. Drug and Alcohol Review, 22(4), 453-460. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09595230310001613976
  4. Ashton, C. (2001). Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: A brief review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178(2), 101-106. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/pharmacology-and-effects-of-cannabis-a-brief-review/82B02735F420CB287DCC80843FC34AE1
  5. Schwilke, E. W., Schwope, D. M., Karschner, E. L., Lowe, R. H., Darwin, W. D., Kelly, D. L., Goodwin, R. S., Gorelick, D. A., Huestis, M. A. (2009). Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 11-Hydroxy-THC, and 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC Plasma Pharmacokinetics during and after Continuous High-Dose Oral THC. Clinical Chemistry, 55(12), 2180-2189. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196989/
  6. Lemberger, L., Martz, R., Rodda, B., Forney, R., Rowe, H. (1973). Comparative pharmacology of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and its metabolite, 11-OH-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. J Clin Invest., 52(10), 2411-2417. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4729039/
  7. Maccallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 49, 12-19. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004
  8. Russo, B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol., 163(7), 1344-1364. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
  9. Gerevich, J., Bácskai, E., Farkas, L., Danics, Z. (2005). A case report: Pavlovian conditioning as a risk factor of heroin 'overdose' death. Harm reduction journal, 2, 11. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1196296/
  10. Vyas, M. B., LeBaron, V. T., Gilson, A. M. (2018). The use of cannabis in response to the opioid crisis: A review of the literature. Nursing Outlook, 66(1), 56-65. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0029655417302865

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