There’s no doubt that taking a hit from a bong provides a different experience to toking on a joint or puffing a pipe. Most people would probably agree that weed is much smoother and carries less burn when smoked through a bong.
However, there is some debate about whether or not it also provides a more potent high than other smoking methods. Unfortunately, research on bong smoking is a little thin. But there is enough information out there to draw some cautious conclusions.
How Does a Bong Work?
The word ‘bong’ is believed to be a bastardisation of the Thai word ‘baung,’ which refers to a bamboo tube used for smoking. In reality, though, bongs are more akin to Middle Eastern hookahs and other similar water pipes.
When the bowl is lit, and the user inhales, the smoke is drawn up through the water at the base of the main chamber. This cools the smoke and filters out tars and other unpleasant compounds, resulting in a more pleasant hit. As a result, bongs deliver less harsh or hot smoke than those produced by joints, spliffs, or pipes.
The other significant advantage to using a bong is that it allows for smokers to take massive hits.
One, the smoke is more palatable and easier to ingest. And two, bongs are designed to hold a lot of smoke in their chamber. Naturally, the bigger the bong, the more smoke it can accommodate, and the more can be inhaled with each hit.
Taking a monster hit in a single breath means more smoke enters the lungs. So, it’s safe to assume that this would get people more stoned than joints, pipes, and other ways of smoking cannabis.
However, this is regularly disputed. Some people claim bongs only give the impression of providing a more powerful hit because of the head rush that comes with taking massive inhales of smoke. Others swear that using a bong is the only way to go if you want to get good and baked.
Bong vs. Joint vs. Pipe
According to a study published earlier this month, regular cannabis users tend to report feeling more intoxicated on days when they use a bong than on days when they vape[i]. While this may seem like pretty conclusive evidence for the power of bongs, a single study isn’t enough to settle the debate over which mode of ingestion gets you the most stoned.
Way back in 1990, researchers sought to determine which smoking method results in the most THC entering the body. Their findings indicated that up to 30 percent of the cannabinoid is destroyed during combustion, whether used in a bong or a joint. However, the authors also concluded that between 40 and 50 percent is lost in sidestream smoke when consumed in a joint. Conversely, bongs capture 100 percent of the smoke, meaning no THC is lost in this way[ii].
These results show that smoking from a bong allows users to ingest a greater proportion of the cannabinoids in their cannabis. Unfortunately, however, such a conclusion is contradicted by a separate study that found that bong smoke contains a lower concentration of THC than joint smoke. According to the authors, this is probably because the water in bongs filters out some of the cannabinoids, resulting in a less potent hit[iii].
Overall, therefore, the jury is still out over whether smoking from a bong gets you more stoned than other modes of ingestion. For what it’s worth, though, we strongly advise against drinking bong water. For starters, cannabinoids aren’t even soluble in water, so drinking the dregs of your sesh won’t get you high. Plus, it’s pretty much the same as eating a filter, which is downright gross.
[i] Cloutier RM, Calhoun BH, Linden-Carmichael AN. Associations of mode of administration on cannabis consumption and subjective intoxication in daily life. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 2021 Sep 2. – https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2021-81158-001
[ii] Mario Perez-Reyes, Marijuana Smoking: Factors that Influence the Bioavailability of Tetrahydrocannabinol, in C. Nora Chiang and Richard Hawks, ed., Research Findings on Smoking of Abused Substances, NIDA Research Monograph 99, 1990 – http://www.ukcia.org/research/FactorsThatInfluenceBioavailability.pdf