“Will putting my mouth around this foreign object make me sick?”
It’s a question we’ve been asking ever since we climbed down from the trees in search of something to make our day-to-day existences a little less monotonous.
If you’re scratching your ape-head wondering how sanitary that communal bong truly is – you’re right to be concerned! With 1 in 8 Aussies sporting a herpes infection, chances are the virus is coming to a repurposed Gatorade bottle near you!
So, just how safe is your smoking apparatus?
You absolutely can get herpes from a bong
Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1), which 85% of Aussies have, is spread through oral secretions (including saliva) or contact with the sores it leaves on your skin.
Sharing objects that have saliva on them, such as a toothbrush, bottle, fork, or “water pipe” (as they call them at the airport) is a surefire way to transmit the virus.
Kissing will also do the trick – and you can get infected even if there are no visible sores on your fellow weed-lover’s lips.
You can’t, however, get herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2, or genital herpes as it’s commonly known), which about 20% of Aussies have, from sharing the old billy.
That’s because, while genital herpes can be transmitted from skin-on-skin contact, this strain of the virus doesn’t survive very long outside of the body. So unless your bong is made of dicks, you should be right.
Speaking of communicable diseases…
Bongs can host a smorgasbord of other icky, catchable things. In addition to herpes, a bong can also give you mono (aka the “kissing disease”), which can lead to an enlarged spleen, jaundice, and even hepatitis.
You might also get a side of the common flu while you’re dining on that sweet marijuana vapour.
How to avoid the gift that keeps on giving
If you’d like to avoid getting herpes (because that shit is with you for life!), here are a few tips to keep your virginal cells virus-free:
- As a general rule, if you wouldn’t kiss a person or lick their spoon, don’t use their bong.
- If you don’t mind looking like a bit of a germaphobe, you can sterilise a bong with alcohol wipes. Just don’t put the alcohol anywhere near an open flame.
- At the very least, wipe the bong lip with your shirt. Physically removing excess saliva can reduce your chance of infection.
- Joints get wet quickly, so avoid passing them around with strangers. Or, better yet, buy a fancy reusable joint tip you can wipe.
A silver lining for the infected among us
While you definitely shouldn’t share bongs, there’s good news for those of us who are already infected: Consuming marijuana can help alleviate the symptoms of herpes!
This is because THC targets the viral and/or cellular mechanisms the virus (which lies dormant in cells until its activated) may use for replication. Researchers are currently looking into how the endocannabinoid system (which weed activates) might be linked to the regulation of latent herpes virus, and antiviral strategies that utilise non-psychoactive derivatives of THC are already in the works.
Cheers for that, scientists!