Do You Get Higher in a Hotbox? If So, Why?

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Photo by: Dario Lo Presti/Shutterstock

Joint Smoking Black Background
Photo by: Jan Havlicek/Shutterstock
For those who are new to the lingo, hotboxing refers to smoking marijuana in a relatively air-tight location such as a closet, a car, or another tight space. Hotboxing is a natural byproduct of the risks that come from openly smoking marijuana in public since marijuana is a federally illegal substance in the U.S., Canada, and many European countries. Therefore, smoking in more contained areas can get users into less trouble on average (unless they’re driving a motor vehicle during consumption or afterwards, which is illegal everywhere). There are lots of testimonials from people who say they’ve felt higher when hotboxing as compared to not hotboxing, but does that theory hold up to science?

Why Do People Hotbox?

Overall, the hotbox became a way to trap cannabis smoke and recycle bud in desperate and dry times, and this has grown to be a nationwide and worldwide pattern. Hotboxing is especially common in U.S. states and Canadian provinces that haven’t recreationally legalized marijuana. Therefore, users try to be as discreet and low-key as possible, which is one main reason why hotboxing has become so popular and widely known over time. As long as you’re not caught in the act of smoking and/or as long as you don’t possess/carry any cannabis, you shouldn’t run into many problems.

However, keep in mind that after hotboxing, you’ll most likely smell like cannabis for a while, so either bring a cologne/perfume with you and/or refrain from hotboxing if you’re going to be spending time in a professionally public place afterwards.

Hotboxing Effects & Study Findings

In 2015, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted a study that confirms that exposure to this type of secondhand cannabis does make you higher. Why is this, though? For starters, the combination of an enclosed/tight space, lots of cannabis smoke, and a lack of fresh oxygen contributes to users experiencing a stronger high, as stated in the study. Also, many users have reported feeling lightheaded during a hotbox session, which is due to the lack of oxygen they’re intaking and the amount of cannabis smoke they’re inhaling, according to a article on hotboxing.

Let’s take a look at how the Johns Hopkins study was conducted. The study was led by Evan S. Herrmann, a Ph.D. and a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, and a team of researchers. According to, this study was the first comprehensive one on secondhand cannabis smoke released since the 1980s. In the study, the researchers recruited a small sample of seven smokers and twelve non-smokers between the ages of 18-45. Six individuals were placed side-by-side in a 10-by-13-foot acrylic enclosure for one hour, and the smokers were given ten joints filled with highly potent cannabis.

Next, there were two separate session rooms that the individuals spent one hour in. One room was ventilated, which allowed air to flow in and out at a standard office-building level. However, researchers restricted airflow to the other room. As many people expected, the non-smokers in the unventilated room felt pretty high. After the study was conducted, the following was stated by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. and senior author of this study:

“We found positive drug effects in the first few hours, a mild sense of intoxication and mild impairment on measures of cognitive performance. These were relatively slight effects, but even so, some participants did not pass the equivalent of a workplace drug test.”

Before and after the study ended, the researchers tested the participants’ blood, saliva, urine, and hair samples for cannabis biomarkers, according to Live Science. After the study, it was found that all six participants who were exposed to the cannabis smoke in the unventilated room had detectable levels of THC in their blood and urine. Also, the individuals reported feeling pleasant, tired, and less alert, or ‘stoned’ as some people may say. Whereas, none of the non-smokers in the ventilated room tested positive for THC. Overall, this study demonstrates how people can be affected if they choose to not smoke cannabis, but the people around them do.

Additional Hotbox Study Takeaways

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Photo by: Dario Lo Presti/Shutterstock
On a similar note, according to Evan Herrmann, in an extreme situation, if an individual breathes in enough passive cannabis smoke to feel high, they could become potentially slightly impaired and/or fail a drug test. Under the study’s unventilated extreme hotbox condition, the non-smokers showed slight impairments on administered cognitive tests in addition to reporting feeling high. Those individuals also had detectable levels of THC in their blood and urine for up to twenty-two hours after the cannabis exposure, according to the study.

However, the individuals in the ventilated hotbox condition had much lower levels of THC in their blood, they didn’t feel cognitively impaired or high, and they didn’t test positive for THC in their urine, as stated in the study’s findings.

This study is extremely useful and important for various reasons, but especially because it contributes to the existing knowledge of the direct effects of cannabis smoking and the potential health concerns/dangers of secondhand cannabis smoke.

Future Hotbox Suggestions

According to a 2010 Journal of Analytic Toxicology study, it was found that passive exposure to cannabis smoke under real-life conditions would only leave ‘trace amounts’ of THC in the individuals’ blood. Therefore, next time you plan on hotboxing, take note of who is with you and which people might not want to get high. This is important to know because if that individual must pass an upcoming drug test, it’d be better to crack a window and/or have them wait outside during the hotbox session just in case.

Although being around a little bit of cannabis smoke, especially in a well-ventilated area, won’t get others high, when you factor in the placebo effect of cannabis smoke, people may get the giggles and feel happy/euphoric, and this could lead to them feeling like they got a contact high.



Article by: Nicole Skrobin