Can Opioids Give You A Contact High?

One of the biggest reasons that indoor smoking has been banned in many countries, especially the United States, is because of the research being done regarding “secondhand smoke.” Studies have shown that, though less harmful, inhaling cigarette or cigar smoke from someone who is smoking nearby can have a serious impact on your health. This impact is especially bad if it occurs over a prolonged period, such as if a person lived with a smoker or had many friends who smoked cigarettes. This idea of secondhand smoke often gets confused with the idea of a “contact high.” While these two are different, some similarities can be explored when determining if opioids can give you a contact high.


The Difference Between A Contact High And Second-Hand Exposure

A contact high is most often reported in people who smoke marijuana and is very rarely considered to be a factor in people who use opioids.

Typically, a marijuana contact high occurs when someone has been around marijuana smoke for an extended period in a poorly ventilated space. The person experiencing this type of contact high may or may not feel the effects of the drug, but research has shown that a drug test would still show evidence of THC.

Secondhand exposure is different than a contact high, as it can occur not just from smoking but from touch as well. Recently there have been many reports of first responders, nurses, and police officers suffering overdoses from either touching or inhaling fentanyl while doing their jobs.

Opioid experts have been confused by these reports, insisting that fentanyl does not absorb well through the skin, and could not cause an overdose by touch alone. These experts agree, however, that if fentanyl is inhaled it could cause an overdose.

Most second-hand opioid exposure will not cause overdose, but it could cause some serious damage to health.


Secondhand Opioid Exposure Explained

Secondhand opioid exposure is a relatively low risk, especially in a well-ventilated area for a short period, but there are some factors that could increase the risk.

One of the main factors that increase the risk of secondhand opioid exposure is the rise in the number of people smoking opioids. While pharmaceuticals like oxycontin gave rise to the opioid epidemic, the high price and difficulty to obtain them have led many people who are dependent on opioids to turn to heroin. Heroin specifically is a problem for secondhand exposure because rising numbers of heroin users are smoking the drug instead of snorting or intravenously injecting it.

A 2021 study in British Columbia of people who had used opioids in the last three days found that 68% of those who responded to the survey had smoked the opioids instead of using other methods to consume them. While the sample size of the study was small at only 369 participants, it speaks to a dangerous trend for both opioid users, and those who may be subject to secondhand opioid exposure by inhalation.

The other factor that makes secondhand opioid exposure more dangerous is the rise in fentanyl and fentanyl-laced substances. A 2006 study found that fentanyl in the air of operating rooms had negative effects on the anesthesiologists that consistently worked in those rooms. This study showed that the fentanyl in the air of those operating rooms “sensitized the brain” making those who were around it more likely to suffer opioid abuse, dependence, and behavioral disorders.

This study suggests that fentanyl in the modern drug supply could have similar results for those dealing with secondhand opioid exposure.


If you are suffering from opioid dependence or addiction, and are looking for help, it is time to contact Fritz Clinic of Alabama. For over 35 years Fritz Clinic of Alabama has been helping aid in the healing of those addicted to opioids. We use medication-assisted treatment as well as counseling to make this transition as simple and effective as possible. Begin your journey back to health today at Fritz Clinic.