Contact High - Dispelling Myths

Contact High

All of the sudden, unexpectedly you are high as a kite. You weren’t planning on smoking weed and in fact, you don’t have any weed on you, so it’s a mystery as to how you got high. As you’re reminiscing about the ways you could have gotten high and maybe freaking about it too, you realize that you walked through a group of stoners with a few rolling papers, or even a bong, just a minute ago and inhaled quite a bit of their smoke. So you conclude that you must’ve just experienced your first contact high!

This is how a lot of people believe contact highs work– and a lot of people are wrong. This is obviously a fake scenario that has no chance of ever coming true. And while contact highs do exist, their nature is very misunderstood and there are a ton of myths floating around regarding them. This guide will illuminate exactly what a contact high is, how they happen, and point out some of the most common myths surrounding contact highs. 

What is a Contact High

A contact high is when someone experiences being high through the company of others without themselves having smoked or taken anything that would get them high. Someone who gets a contact high will often feel the effects of the high (and just as strongly) as those that are actually smoking weed due to the unexpected nature of this sensation. This can cause panic in some because they weren’t planning or expecting to get high and they potentially didn’t want to. 

Can you Get High through Second-hand Smoke? 

Whether or not you can get high through second-hand smoke begs the question- are contact highs real? The true answer to this question is maybe. 

There is not enough research out there to fully confirm or deny whether or not second-hand smoke can cause someone to get high. Of course, simple reasoning tells us that with enough second-hand smoke inhaled one could surely get high, but whether or not the amount needed to be inhaled would be anything that would ever actually happen is unclear. 

What is clear, however, is that exposure to second-hand smoke can at the very least cause someone to feel as if they’re high. This would be a placebo effect, which is very similar though notably distinguishable from the expectancy effect. 

An expectancy effect is when someone actually does smoke or intake marijuana in some way but feels higher than they actually are due to the understanding that they smoked weed. It is especially common amongst new users who feel as if they are much higher than they really are since they believe that’s what they should be feeling. 

This is very similar to a contact high placebo, with the only difference being that a contact high placebo stems from beliefs about second-hand smoke inhalation while the expectancy effect stems from beliefs about directly smoking or intaking weed. 

Sometimes, even just being around someone who is high can make one feel as if they themselves are high. No second-hand smoke need be inhaled for this to occur. 

There are actually countless studies that show when a sober person is mixed in with a group of people who are stoned, they will act and feel more stoned themselves.

Crucially, there is not enough research to determine whether or not second-hand smoke is enough to truly get someone high. Regardless though, the sensation and experience of a contact high is absolutely real. 

Will You Fail a Drug Test

No, being around others who are smoking will not be enough to cause you to fail a drug test. Failing a drug test due to second-hand smoke may in theory be possible but it’s pragmatically impossible. You would have to inhale an absurd amount of smoke for this to happen, an amount that would never happen in any even semi-normal situation. 

Rest assured and feel comfortable about passing your drug test even if you have been hanging out with your stoner friends. 

How to Avoid a Contact High

If a contact high is something that concerns or worries you, you are in luck because they are easily preventable. If you want to completely ensure that you don’t get a contact high you can simply avoid secondhand smoke. 

If you happen to already be around someone who is smoking weed and you don’t want to risk a contact high then you can take a few steps away from them and that should be enough. 

Being outside will also decrease the chance of a contact high as all the smoke will dissipate into the air. You can use this to your advantage and suggest that the two of you go outside while they smoke. Lastly, note that since you understand that most if not all contact highs are placebos, you are much less likely to experience one. Placebos only work when you don’t know it’s a placebo, that’s the whole point. 

Myths of the Contact High

Second-hand smoke is not a potent gas that moves throughout the sky and causes everyone that comes in its path to get high. While that sentence might sound comedic, this seems to be similar to what some people truly believe. 

The fascination and myth about the likelihood and realities of contact highs stem from fear and disliking of marijuana. Thankfully, those feelings about the herb have mostly gone away, but unfortunately, the myth that came from those feelings is sticking around. 

Contact highs are not nearly as likely or potent as the word on the street often suggests. Contact highs are possible, but they’re extremely unlikely in the practical sense– so it’s a myth that you will get high from hanging around a smoke session. You would need acute exposure to second-hand smoke to receive a contact high, not a walk through a smoke circle. 


A contact high is when someone feels the sensation of being high without directly partaking in consuming THC. Contact highs are not well researched and because of that their legitimacy and occurrence rate is highly disputed. 

What the limited research does say is that while contact highs are possible, it takes a lot of smoke (like being in a hot boxed room for a long time) and can’t really occur from merely accidentally being around second-hand smoke. So in any ordinary circumstance, you don’t have to worry about failing a drug test or getting high. What does happen often, however, is a placebo effect that can cause someone to feel as if they’re high. 

This can actually be a great time but if it’s not something that you want to experience then just remember what’s happening is a placebo and that feeling will go away. Hopefully, this article has cleared up some myths about contact highs and given you a better understanding of exactly what a contact high is! 

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