A contact high, or “second-hand high,” is the idea that someone can get high from the smoke or vapor originally inhaled by somebody else. Although it has been popularized by movies, TV shows, and the like, you may be right to wonder if catching a contact high is really a thing. Seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? However, studies suggest that THC from second-hand smoke can actually enter the bloodstream, and possibly even produce effects. But what about vapor? Can you catch a second-hand high from a vape pen?
What Is a Contact High?
A contact high happens when someone feels high simply from being around other people that are smoking or vaping cannabis. For this phenomenon to happen, THC, the primary intoxicating cannabinoid in cannabis, must be inhaled by one person, exhaled into the air through smoke or vapor, and then be inhaled again by somebody else close by. Second-hand highs are possible because not all of the THC and other cannabinoids in cannabis are absorbed by the lungs. It is believed that about 50% of the THC contained in cannabis actually enters smoke or vapor for inhalation. The vast majority of this is absorbed by the lungs and transported into the bloodstream, but not all of it. A study from 2015 found that it is unlikely that a person exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke will test positive for cannabis themselves. While it is possible that extreme cannabis smoke exposure could produce a positive urine test, this occurrence is likely to be rare and limited to the hours immediately after exposure, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
What Does the Science Say?
A 2015 study by John Hopkins University found that people could indeed absorb enough second-hand THC to feel some kind of intoxication. Twelve participants were placed in a closed-off room, and half were asked to smoke ten joints of 11% THC cannabis. Afterward, detectable amounts of THC were found in the blood and urine of all subjects, and some performance impairment was detected on cognitive tasks. The non-smokers also reported feeling pleasant, tired, and less alert, indicating that they did indeed catch some sort of second-hand intoxication. When the experiment was done again in a ventilated room, no THC was detected in the subjects who did not smoke. This indicates that ventilation and airflow are likely more important than proximity when it comes to second-hand smoke. However, all studies that have explored cannabis contact highs have done so with smoke. No studies have specifically been done on the ability of vapor to produce a contact high. Additionally, there are certain differences between smoke and vapor that may affect their ability to produce a second-hand high. For instance, vapor is considered to be lighter than smoke and believed to dissipate much quicker. In a closed environment, this doesn’t mean much. But outside, vapor may not linger around for long enough to be inhaled by anyone else. Moreover, people usually use vape pens to vape super potent concentrates, not regular flower. As such, the exhaled vapor will likely contain much more THC than would be contained in smoke.
Can You Get a Contact High from a Vape Pen?
Probably not, although it may be possible under the right conditions. No scientific studies have ever been done to explore this question. And, without any evidence, it is impossible to tell whether you can really catch a contact high from vapor. That being said, there’s also no way to rule it out. At the end of the day, catching a contact high from a vape pen may be possible under the right conditions. If you are being exposed to heaps of unventilated THC vapor for a long amount of time, then absorbing enough THC to feel high could be a real possibility. However, if you have simply been hanging out with your friends while they vape, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Be Careful with Your Vapor
Even if it is incredibly hard to catch a contact high from a vape pen, you should still be considerate to others when exhaling your vapor. They may be worried about smelling like cannabis or about vapor irritating their eyes or skin. We also advise that you do not use vape products near children.