Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 18, 2023

Finding the most efficient way to inhale weed is just as important for medical marijuana users as it is for recreational users. And while taking a proper hit of weed may seem like the most obvious thing to do, there are many misconceptions when it comes to properly inhaling marijuana.

For novice users, this can be even more confusing. Some experienced users hold their breath when inhaling in order to get higher, while others advise you to exhale immediately, so you’re left wondering how long you should actually hold your breath when smoking weed.

We’re here to give you the answer to that question, so you’ll know how long to actually hold your hit of weed in.

Cannabis Consumption Methods

Before we get into the proper breathing technique for consuming cannabis, we’ll go over the most common weed consumption methods.

Novice users should probably start either with smoking or with vaporizing, since those consumption methods allow for a better dosage control.

Blunts and Joints

Blunts and joints are the most common way of smoking marijuana. The former is made with tobacco paper, while the latter is made with regular rolling papers. These are probably the methods that most marijuana users try out when they’re first introduced to cannabis. Note that it’s important to take small hits when smoking a joint, especially if it’s your first time smoking, so you build your tolerance little by little.


One hitters are pipes that pack a small amount of cannabis in their bowl. They’re an alternative to smoking a joint, and users don’t need additional equipment like rolling papers and the like in order to use them. All you need to do is to fill up the bowl, light up, and toke.

Bongs and Bubblers

Bongs and bubblers are good alternatives to smoking joints, as users draw a lot more smoke and experience a smoother hit. The weed in the bong can even be topped with cannabis concentrates in order to increase the intensity of the high.


Vaporizing means evaporating cannabinoids like THC and CBD into gas, and inhaling the cannabis smoke. Vaporizers are very common nowadays as vaping is becoming one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis (since it’s less likely to irritate your throat compared to joints). Vape pens are generally reusable, and the only thing the user replaces is the THC cartridge that contains the concentrate.


Dabbing is a method of cannabis consumption where cannabis concentrates are dropped into a dab rig and heated into vapor (which is then inhaled). Concentrates are often very potent and THC levels in concentrates can vary between 30% to 90%. 

The Proper Way to Smoke Weed

Before we go into how long you should hold cannabis smoke in, we should first go over proper inhaling and exhaling when it comes to consuming cannabis. It may take a few hits for you to get high if you’re a regular user, although newbies need fewer hits in order to get high. 

To ensure you have a more pleasant high, especially if you’re a first-time user, make sure you pause in between hits to see whether the weed has kicked in or not. The best way to go about it would be to take a hit, wait for a few minutes, and take another one if you feel like you’re not getting the desired effects. Newbies should take between 2-3 hits at most since their body is not used to weed and its effects yet. 

The Inhale

Smoking weed is pretty much the same as smoking cigarettes in terms of inhaling and exhaling the cannabis smoke. However, there’s a slight difference in the way you draw the smoke in, and how long you hold it before exhaling.

The first thing you do is draw the smoke in your mouth (similar to smoking a cigar), and only then inhale it. When smoking weed, the best method to use is abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing (using the 4-2-4 count). That’s inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for 2, and exhaling for 4.

The Exhale

The exhale should be as close to your natural breathing as your inhale. It should be soft and gentle, without holding the smoke in for too long (which is the most common cause for coughing).

Does Holding Weed Smoke for Longer Make You Higher?

People believe that you get the most out of your weed if you hold the smoke for longer and enable the body to absorb more THC through the alveoli in the lungs. But this can’t be further from the truth, even though it’s a common misconception among cannabis aficionados.

In fact, holding the smoke for a longer period of time only deprives your brain of oxygen, and oxygen deprivation makes you feel lightheaded which people mistake as a more intense high.

As soon as you inhale properly by using the method mentioned above, the cannabinoids get absorbed, and you should exhale the smoke in the same soft manner as you inhaled it. That will allow your body to also reoxygenate as soon as possible, and provide you with natural airflow.

Why Holding in Cannabis Smoke Doesn’t Make You Higher?

Holding your cannabis smoke for a longer period of time isn’t just a wrong way to consume cannabis, but it can also be dangerous to your health.

A 1989 study by the University of Chicago concluded that people didn’t experience stronger effects the longer they held the cannabis smoke in, and a follow-up study done in 1991 by Zacny and Chait delivered similar results.

On the contrary, prolonged cannabis smoke exposure has the potential to damage lung tissue. A study published in 2018 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association showed that harmful compounds are inhaled as a result of the combustion of the dried cannabis flower, which may harm lung tissues.

For that reason, some scientists are on the side of vaporization of the cannabis flower as opposed to smoking the dried flower. Vaping heats up the cannabinoids at a lower temperature and doesn’t expose them to as high of a heat as combustion does. In theory, that might mean that marijuana users will be inhaling fewer toxic substances and increase the consumption of beneficial plant compounds, although more studies need to be done on the subject to reach a definitive conclusion.

Final Thoughts 

First-timers are often confused when they smoke cannabis by taking big hits, holding their breath in longer than needed, and taking one hit after another. If you’re hoping to have a good experience, the best advice would be to take it slow and prevent the side effects of consuming too much marijuana at once like nausea and “greening out.”

Whether you’re looking for an uplifting Sativa, or a relaxing Indica, the most important thing is that you choose a strain that fits your needs, and the budtender in your dispensary can help you choose the right one for you. 

Make sure that you take your time and wait a few minutes between each hit, and don’t keep the cannabis smoke in for too long to prevent oxygen deprivation. All that’s left is to get together with a group of friends, rent a funny movie, get enough food, and light up.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.