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High Thoughts: Why do you get Cottonmouth from Smoking?

cannabis cottonmouth
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

The thoughts that arise during a cannabis high can be some of the most original, funny and honest ones to ever pop into your brain. Why is the sky blue? How genuinely far is a light year away? Why does Adam Sandler always wear basketball shorts and an oversized t-shirt? For centuries, cannabis has been utilized for its mind-opening and philosophical effects. Today, we’re going to be delving into yet another mind-boggling question that many stoners might think: why do you get cottonmouth from smoking cannabis?

Cottonmouth is a strange phenomenon, but one that arises nonetheless. Let’s delve in and try to fully understand what this phenomena is, and why it occurs to those who smoke cannabis. As always, don’t block your high thoughts out, use them. 

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The Art of Questions

Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have asked questions about the world around them and their experiences in that world. It’s part of our DNA. It’s these thoughts and queries that have allowed us to learn, evolve and grow more intelligent. When a human first ever looked up to the sky and asked: what are those shiny things? When a human first ever looked at a tool and asked: what can I do with this? When a human first ever looked at themselves and asked: what am I? These questions have made us who we are. Romy Aran writes:

“It is in our human nature to seek answers as answers provide security. As such, we are willing to accept lies as long as they provide the illusion of truth. Asking questions means that one is willing to not find the answer immediately. It takes time to find answers.”

However, why is it that as we grow older some of us begin to stop asking questions? As children, we run around pointing at random inanimate objects and ask what they are. Our parents have to constantly wait on us, giving us obvious answers to these questions. Well, to them it’s obvious, but to children it’s all new. So why do we stop asking questions as we get older? Whilst asking questions allows us to learn information, it also has a social impact. Asking someone else a question highlights your interest in them. How are you? How was your day? Where are you from?

It uplifts them, makes them feel important. However, on the other hand, asking questions can suggest a lack of knowledge. People want to look smart, and want to look like they know things about the world. If you ask a question, you are openly admitting to not knowing something. That can be quite an honest reveal. But ultimately, the world is all of ours, and we have a right to ask questions about it. 

High Thoughts

High thoughts are very specific because these are the types of questions that pop into your head during a cannabis high. However, these thoughts are similar to child-like thoughts. They are free and without inhibition. Children don’t mind how asking a specific question might make them look, they simply want to know the answer. This is the same with those who are high. Cannabis and, specifically THC, can allow you to see the world in a different way; in a childish way. Maxim writes: 

“Cannabis enhances neural activity in the frontal cortex of your brain, which is essentially command central. It handles everything from attention and problem solving, to personality and temperament…the THC allows your brain to form new connections and pathways that didn’t exist before, thereby guiding your thought process into enlightened territory.”

The issue can be that parents will often tell their children to stop asking silly questions. Or teachers often ask their students to focus on the work and not ask questions that don’t make sense to the topic. However, thinking outside the box is what has allowed human beings to create some of the most important inventions in history. The lightbulb, the internet, the concept of science – all came about from asking ‘silly’ questions. Therefore, high thoughts must be cherished and answered, not avoided and criticized. That is why we’ll be doing exactly that today. And, our high question of choice is…drum roll please…why do you get cottonmouth from smoking? 

What is Cottonmouth?

First off, let’s answer an even simpler question. Cottonmouth is spoken about and discussed a lot in the world of cannabis, but what actually is it? And why do people call it that? 

Cottonmouth, also known as xerostomia by dental hygienists, is an issue that occurs when the mouth becomes dehydrated. The salivary glands do not produce enough saliva or spit, and thus the mouth becomes very dry. This can also cause the tongue and lips to crack or build up white, frothy spit. Here are a list of other symptoms that can come from having cottonmouth. Smartmouth lists:

  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • Stringy saliva
  • Sticky or parched sensation in your mouth
  • A constant & unquenchable thirst
  • Difficulty speaking & swallowing
  • A raspy/hoarse voice
  • A sore throat
  • Problems tasting food & beverages
  • Trouble wearing dentures
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth & on the tongue

So, if cottonmouth is caused by our salivary glands slowing down saliva production, then what is this triggered by?

What Causes Cottonmouth?

Cottonmouth and the slowing down of saliva production can happen in a variety of ways, not just through smoking cannabis. Spicy or salty foods can dehydrate the mouth, as well as drinking too much alcohol or coffee. Anything that essentially reduces the amount of liquids, and especially water, into the mouth is likely to cause dryness. Salt and spice can dry up liquids, whilst alcohol and coffee remove fluids from your blood, and thus you need extra water to balance those substances out.

What about Cannabis?

Smoking is of course a very dry act in itself. You’re putting a lit joint in your mouth and inhaling dry smoke. This, like anything hot, will naturally dry out the mouth. However, there’s more to it. Smoking can restrict the blood flow to various parts of your body, including the mouth. The smoke enters the body and slows down the veinal processes. Smartmouth continues:

“In addition to lack of blood flow, the nicotine in tobacco products is also known to minimize saliva flow and lead to issues like cottonmouth from smoking”

Whilst this might explain why cottonmouth is caused by joints with tobacco in them, it does not quite explain why blunts (with only cannabis in) can still give you the same sensation. Well, the truth is, cottonmouth can be caused by vaping, dabbing or smoking. The reason is that cannabis, itself, can cause this effect. When cannabis is consumed, the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the body take them in and create the high or medical benefit – depending on the cannabinoids within the specific strain. However, these same receptors that take in the cannabinoids, also limit saliva production when this process occurs. Therefore, it’s not only the process of smoking, but cannabis itself that causes cottonmouth.

Is It Dangerous?

Cottonmouth, if left untreated and undealt with, can lead to tooth decay or gum disease. However, it isn’t necessarily a negative if it’s dealt with. Make sure to drink lots of water, and not just fizzy drinks, when you get high. When it comes to health, nothing can beat water. Healthline writes:

“Water helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, transport nutrients, remove waste, and circulate blood. That means your body can’t properly perform these functions if you’re dehydrated, which happens when you lose more fluids than you take in.”

Therefore, if you’re wanting to avoid cottonmouth but still wanting to consume cannabis, then ensure to have a big bottle of water with you at all times. Once you get into the habit of it, it won’t seem like such a burden. 


High thoughts are gifts to be championed, not to be ignored. We return to our inquisitive, child-like mindsets when we get high, and this is a great opportunity to ask questions that we don’t fully understand. Plus, you have the extra bonus of not feeling socially awkward for asking them. Cottonmouth is a confusing idea, but ultimately it’s caused by dehydration. Cannabis consumption can dehydrate the mouth and blood circulation. Therefore, make sure you’re hydrating regularly to avoid that awkwardly dry mouth that cottonmouth causes.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.