You’re a pro.
When a friend passes you a joint, you suck in as much of the sweet, pungent smoke as you can and hold it in your mouth. Then you inhale it as deeply as possible into your lungs, holding it for five seconds or longer. Then you quickly blow out whatever’s left.
And then you start coughing.
Guess what? That’s a sign that you’re not really a weed pro after all. You may be coughing so much because you’re doing it all wrong.
We know there are many ways to smoke bud, and we’re not trying to prevent you from enjoying yourself while you get buzzed (or blasted). But let’s face it. Uncontrollable coughing isn’t just unsanitary and uncomfortable, it completely disrupts the vibe of a smoke sesh and makes you look like a newb.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and you don’t have to sacrifice any of the high.
Here’s how to stop coughing when you smoke weed.
Why Does It Happen?
Coughing isn’t a sign that you’ve gotten your hands on some primo flower, or that you’ve inhaled so much potent smoke that you’re going to get wasted quickly.
It’s simply a natural physical reaction to the smoke, and there can be several factors involved.
In some cases, coughing is a reaction to the weed itself.
We’re not necessarily talking about some nefarious dealer cutting or lacing your supply, although that’s certainly a possibility. Much more often, coughing is triggered by low-grade schwag which will produce very harsh smoke, or by a non-organic pot that contains contaminants like pesticides or chemicals. (And if you’re vaping, coughing could be caused by leftover extraction solvents in your juice.)
However, it’s most common to experience one of those disruptive coughing fits after a deep drag on top-shelf weed. What’s up with that?
Quite simply, cannabis smoke often irritates your respiratory tract.
Smoke of all types – not just cigarette smoke – contains lots of tiny particles. In fact, research has shown that the particles in marijuana smoke are much larger in diameter and mass than those in tobacco smoke. And when you toke up, you’re not just inhaling cannabinoids. You’re also inhaling tiny plant material, dust, other naturally-occurring toxins, and possibly even mold or mildew.
The tissues in your throat and lungs, understandably, aren’t really happy about that. So they automatically activate defense mechanisms against the irritants. The tissues produce mucus that’s intended to clean out the invading foreign particles – and the mucus stimulates coughing, which is the body’s way of expelling the whole mess. Some of the particles may trigger allergies, too.
There are other reasons that weed smoke can trigger coughing. Here’s one of the big ones: the smoke is really hot, and heat is another irritant that sensitive throat and bronchial tissues don’t like.
Another possibility simply relates to your lung capacity. It’s tempting to show off by taking an enormous bong rip or an enormous hit on a joint – but if you’re inhaling more smoke than your lungs can handle, you’re almost definitely going to trigger a coughing fit.
Thankfully, there are ways to minimize or even eliminate coughing when you smoke weed.
How To Prevent Coughing When Smoking Cannabis
We’ve listed several potential causes of that telltale weed cough, so it makes sense to deal with each of them separately.
The issue of particles in marijuana smoke has to be dealt with separately. But you can often prevent much of the coughing by only buying high-quality flowers.
Whenever possible, choose cannabis that has been organically grown. That will eliminate the chances of pesticides or other hazardous chemicals getting into your weed, your smoke, and your body. And yes, you can save a few bucks by smoking schwag – but are the coughing fits really worth the savings?
You may not have the option in your state, but it’s always better to buy at a dispensary than from a dealer. Not only are you more likely to find organic bud, but it’s probably also been tested for contaminants.
Since hot smoke can irritate the throat, it makes sense that cooling smoke before you inhale it would lessen the chances of coughing. There are two ways to do that.
One is to change your consumption method. Vapor from a vaporizer is produced at much lower temperatures, and you can lower the heat even further if desired, so coughing probably won’t be an issue. If vaping isn’t your thing, a bong or bubbler will often produce cooler smoke than a bowl or joint. Of course, you can always switch to edibles, but that’s probably not the advice you’re looking for.
Here’s our other suggestion. If you’re using a bong, add another percolator or a diffuser to cool the smoke further, or add ice chips to the water. If you’re using a dab rig, turn down the temperature. You’ll still get more than enough THC to do the job.
Most weed smokers who struggle with persistent coughing don’t realize that they’re doing a lot to cause the problem.
We’ve mentioned the huge, deep hits that people often take and hold as long as they can. They probably believe the myth that enormous rips and long holds are the way to get really high, really fast. That’s not the way it works, though.
In reality, the lungs absorb THC very quickly, so there’s no need to hold the smoke in until you start to feel dizzy. (That dizzy feeling isn’t because you’re getting high; it’s because you’re depriving your brain of oxygen.) And taking monstrous hits will overload your lung capacity – inducing the coughs you’d like to avoid, and making it more difficult to enjoy the effects of the hit.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a “right” way to smoke weed without coughing.
You may be accustomed to smoking cigarettes, but inhaling weed smoke isn’t the same as inhaling tobacco smoke; marijuana smoke is much thicker. You don’t want to let cannabis smoke sit in your mouth and throat before inhaling since that will cause unwanted irritation.
Instead, direct inhale the smoke into your lungs for four seconds at most, then open your mouth and take in some air to give your body the oxygen it needs. Hold the smoke for two seconds and then exhale steadily for four seconds. That will minimize the amount of time that the irritating smoke stays in your throat and respiratory system while giving your lungs just enough time to absorb the THC.
And best of all, it will help you stop coughing when you smoke weed.
A Final Word: Water
Staying well-hydrated before, during, and after a smoke sesh provides several benefits. It keeps the bronchial tract moist, helping to prevent the irritation that can trigger a coughing fit. It can also help “wash down” any of the particles in weed smoke that may cause irritation and coughing.
Some prefer to use hard candies or chew gum, in order to induce the production of saliva that may ease irritation and minimize coughing. That works too. Just don’t try substituting your favorite adult beverage for water. Alcohol will dehydrate your body and may make the coughing problem even worse.
How To Stop Coughing When You Smoke Weed? FAQ
Q: I was told that enormous hits were good because they help expand lung capacity, which lets you handle more smoke and get higher.
A: That’s a good theory, but the coughing from a huge hit means you’re taking in more than your lungs can handle. Try doing breathing exercises when you’re not smoking; that’s the best way to boost lung capacity.
Q: Doesn’t coughing in the middle of a hit mean you’re getting high?
A: No, it means your body is begging for oxygen. Coughing has nothing to do with how stoned you’re getting (or going to get).
Q: Can you develop a recurring cough from smoking weed?
A: Absolutely. Even though there’s no proof that cannabis can cause issues like lung cancer, research has shown that regular marijuana smoking causes noticeable damage to the bronchial tract. That damage leads to chronic cough in one-quarter of habitual weed smokers, and can even cause regular rounds of bronchitis. There’s good news, though: the damage and health effects appear to go away soon after you stop smoking for a while – as long as you don’t also smoke tobacco.