Does Coughing After a Hit Get You Higher?

teenagers smoking cannabis cough

Any and every person that has smoked weed has come across the classic “cannabis cough". Coughing from smoking weed is a natural experience and happens to be one of the most popular mysteries amongst the marijuana community. At one time or another, every cannabis smoker has heard the theory that coughing after taking a hit actually gets you higher. The coughing theory is nothing new to the cannabis community, but many new and experienced consumers alike are truly curious if coughing actually gets you higher. While this rumor is mostly just based on pure speculation, there are some valid explanations as to why thousands of stoners claim to get higher if they cough after taking a hit.

Leafbuyer is here to take a more in-depth look into this age-old stoner question: does coughing get you higher?

Why Does Smoking Weed Make You Cough?

lungs coughing from smoke

There are a variety of explanations behind why taking a hit of weed can sometimes cause a coughing fit. While many believe it is the classic rite of passage for new smokers to experience since their lungs aren't used to it, there is actually much that goes into it. Ultimately, there are a few explanations as to why cannabis makes you cough.

Inhaling Smoke

The most basic explanation behind the “cannabis cough” is the fact that you are inhaling a combusted smoke. Smoking cannabis is not a new practice, and there are no reported deaths from inhaling a hit of marijuana smoke. Nevertheless, inhaling smoke of any kind is never the healthiest choice. However, there still aren't any reports to date that having shown inhaling cannabis smoke causes lung cancer or diseases.

Even though inhaling cannabis is vastly different than tobacco, it does contain carcinogens and irritants similar to combusting tobacco. Any form of smoke entering the lungs is capable of creating mucus buildup and inflammation. Legal marijuana undergoes a plethora of quality testing before hitting shelves to ensure that no harmful pesticides, herbicides, fungi, or nutrients are left in the flower. Those excess irritants have the potential of enticing a coughing fit from inhaling cannabis smoke. Regardless, the act of inhaling smoke is the most logical explanation as to why smoking a joint makes you cough.

Size of the Hit

Another explanation behind the “cannabis cough” is the size of the hit a consumer takes. It is common for new consumers to take a bigger hit than they can handle, which forces them into a coughing battle. The struggle is particularly noticeable when taking a fat dab (if you know, you know).

It also comes down to the lung capacity of individual consumers. Everyone has a different lung capacity; some stoners can take a massive rip without even blinking, while other people need to take it much slower. Overall, it merely depends on if a consumer is familiar with smoking cannabis and what their lung capacity can handle. Taking smaller hits is the best way to avoid coughing while smoking weed.

The Heat from Sparking Up

One explanation that many new consumers forget to consider is the fact that smoke contains heat. Think about it — when someone rips a one-hitter, joint, bowl, or any dry-hit pipe, they tend to cough more. When the cannabis is combusted with a lighter, it heats the bud and produces smoke. That heat remains in the smoke and can irritate the throat and lungs, which then in turn can cause coughing.

Using any sort of water pipe to smoke — a bong, bubbler, dab rig — allows for the water to filter and cool off the smoke before it’s inhaled. For this reason, these methods of consumption tend to cause less coughing. It is easier to take too big of a hit from these types of pipes, though, so be careful, or you’ll just end up having the same predicament!

Does Coughing Get You Higher?

smoke from marijuana joint

Back to the main question at hand: does coughing when taking a hit get you higher? As of right now, any answers to this question are still a lot of speculation and definitely require further cannabis research. Nevertheless, there is a reason why consumers believe coughing does, in fact, get them higher.

In short, coughing while smoking weed does not necessarily intensify the high. The act of coughing is the expelling of excess air from the lungs, often causing a loud burst. Since smoke, in general, irritates the lungs, it is a natural reaction for our bodies to expel the irritant in the form of coughing. The act of inhaling the cannabis smoke, which contains the psychoactive component of marijuana known as THC, is how users get baked; the actual act of coughing has nothing to do with causing the high effect.

However, there is a theory that the gasp of breath consumers take before coughing increases the surface area of our lungs, which could increase the amount of THC intake. The moment before coughing is a possible explanation because it exposes more of the lungs to the smoke. In turn, it is allowing for more THC to enter our system. Again, this is a speculative answer with not much adequate scientific evidence to back it up.

The ultimate reason consumers believe coughing gets them higher is because as you cough, it creates a lack of oxygen to the brain, coupled with a drop in blood pressure. These sensations tend to cause dizziness, sweating, and lightheadedness. It's the experience of these physiological reactions, coupled with the THC entering the body, that make consumers feel a more intense high from coughing — it is not the actual coughing that intensifies the high.


Check out some cannabis products that are easier on the lungs here!