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Sensory Deprivation Float Tanks: Are They Worth the High?

May 24, 2017
Welcome to “Is It Worth the High?”, where our writers see newly released movies, listen to the latest album drops, and try other experiences while high to determine whether they’re worth your time, money, and most importantly, your cannabis buzz. This week, Rebecca Kelley and two other guinea pigs get their float on while blissfully stoned.

Products Enjoyed Pre-Float

Brett: Golden Pineapple, a pleasantly tropical sativa-dominant hybrid, in joint form

Jason: Middlefork, a potent hybrid enjoyed via Pax 2 vape

Rebecca: The tried-and-true Granddaddy Purple in joint form

High Experienced (1-10 scale)

Brett: 6.5

Jason: 6

Rebecca: 7

Smoking pre-rolls before a sensory deprivation float tank experience

Pre-funking our sensory deprivation experience by, well, augmenting our senses. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Move over, Bikram yoga: isolation tanks are becoming the Hot New Thing in wellness trends. Pitched as a therapeutic way to mitigate chronic stress, “floatation therapy” is designed to relax the mind while cradling the body in warm, salt-saturated water. Curious as to whether cannabis would further elevate the experience and its purported benefits, I enlisted Leafly editor Brett and my husband, Jason, to boldly float where no sober person has floated before (who am I kidding, it’s Seattle; I’m guessing the majority of sensory deprivation tank clients are probably high).

Google Trends float tank interest over time

Google Trends float tank interest over time.

Like good little scientists, the three of us wanted to see whether three different strains would impact our experience, with Brett opting for an active sativa, Jason choosing a balanced hybrid, and me trying a heavy indica. Ever the planner, Jason was already nicely medicated from his vaping sesh while Brett and I frantically tried to light our pre-rolls with damp matches (Brett: “Who even uses those things any more? Seattleites shouldn’t”) so we could power through them before our float appointment. We arrived soggy from the Seattle drizzle, pungent cannabis odor clinging to two of us—an absurd juxtaposition to the gleaming white waiting area adorned with nature photos and New Age music that greeted us.

Initial Impressions of the Float Tank

Brett: “It looked like a gigantic white bean, with a portion of the top propped up to let a human climb inside.”

Jason: “It’s like a supervillain’s escape pod.”

Rebecca: “I feel like I’m stepping into a huge modern Dutch clog.”

Sensory deprivation tank

The sensory deprivation tank in all its egg-shaped glory. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

The float tank process goes something like this:

  • Step 1: Get high (obviously optional, but in this instance preferred)
  • Step 2: Check in
  • Step 3: Pick your crunchy granola music track (Brett opted for “Waves with Seagulls in the Distance,” Jason chose “Waves, Birds, and Whales,” and I picked “Rainforest With Birds”—I’m pretty sure each playlist is the same song layered with sounds of running water and an occasional “caw!” thrown in)
  • Step 4: Take a pre-soak shower (shampoo and soap only; save the conditioner for afterwards) and apply Vaseline to any cuts or scratches on your body to avoid salt water stings
  • Step 5: Get your soak on for the next hour
  • Step 6: Emerge from your futuristic coffin rejuvenated and refreshed, and take a post-soak shower to scrub the salt remnants off your body

Overall Experience


“The water was set at perfect body temperature, and lifted me easily off the floor of the tank as I lay back. As I steadied myself, the lights and soundtrack faded away, leaving me with 50 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation. My first high thought: What should I be thinking about right now? The effects of this sativa? How to tackle problems in my life? Ideas for the next great American novel? It was hard for my high mind to choose a topic. Also, the pod was stuffy. I did my best to assume a meditative state.

“Bit by bit, my thoughts wandered away from my standard day-to-day mental bustle. It was easy to forget where I was and what I was doing. My eyes were open, but the quiet darkness above me made me feel like I was staring at the insides of my eyelids. Tranquility settled over me, and I relished the warm, relaxing embrace of the sativa cannabinoids infiltrating my brain and the salt water around me. Thoughts played out almost pictorially in the blackness, fluidly shifting from subject to subject. I thought about paintings, people I knew, goals I had, how I felt, and how tricky it is to keep your mind from churning wildly.


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“As time passed and I stared into nothingness, I began to feel as though I were flying through outer space. I could practically see the stars expanding out in front of me, and envision myself in an astronaut suit, disconnected and floating freely forward. I saw planets and asteroids off in the distance. The splendor of my imagined surroundings was the sole matter occupying me; I was unconcerned with where I was going or what I would do when I got there. My eyes slid closed, though the difference between that and the darkened pod was indiscernible.

“Blue light abruptly flooded the pod and broke my trance. My eyes popped open, struggling to make sense of my very strange surroundings. Shit—I had fallen asleep. Only the automatic lights had yanked me back to wakefulness. How long had I been out? The unsettling feeling detracted from the post-soak relaxation I might otherwise have felt. Also, I felt physically gross after the float; the intense salt content of the water can really dry out your skin and make your hair feel gross. Use LOTS of shampoo/conditioner afterwards (like, three rounds).”


“I was feeling some moderate body effects when we arrived and had a slight buzz going into the tank. The experience would be a bit disorienting sober, but the mellow high mixed with the removal of all external stimuli led to an intense calmness that left me wondering, ‘Is this what it’s like to be in a coma?’


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“With no concept of time, I spent somewhere between 3 and 40 minutes contemplating, ‘If this is what it’s like to be in a coma, would I want someone to pull my plug?’ before ultimately deciding, ‘Yeah, I’d eventually get bored.’ Plus, I was starting to get hungry, and I decided tube meals would clearly be no substitute for the real thing.

“After that, I weightlessly drifted around my pod pretending like I was recreating scenes from Gravity. This probably lasted another 20 to 57 minutes. Eventually, the music kicked back on to inform me it was time to wake from my cryosleep.”


I was off to a bit of a frantic start thanks to our pre-funk fail that involved wet matches, speed-smoking a joint next to a nearby dumpster, and checking in under the paranoid notion that everyone within a five block radius could smell how high I was. Thinking I needed to Mario speed-run my way through the disrobing and pre-soak rinse requirements, I flailed my clothes off, lost my balance, and ended up sitting bare-assed onto the wooden bench next to my soak pod. Horrified by the thought of how many butts I was now eskimo brothers with, I climbed into the contraption and pulled the hatchback lid closed, my stress levels at a zenith.

Towels and ear plugs provided at the sensory deprivation tank float facility

Towels and ear plugs set out for float guests. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Settling into the water was a disorienting sensation. I leaned back and reflexively thought I was going to do a backwards somersault, but to my surprise, I eased comfortably into the float, cradled by the buoyant salt water. “This is kind of neat!”, I thought, spending the next several minutes touching a finger to the wall of the pod and seeing how long it would take for my body to meander its way to the opposite side. I lazily bounced back and forth for a while, floating through the cosmos and wondering if astronaut training programs include mandatory sessions on how to blast an alien out of your ship’s airlock, the seemingly go-to solution for dealing with hostile entities on board a ship navigating through space.

The first 30 minutes of my float experience felt relaxed as I careened through simulated galaxies and thought how cool it would be if the pod’s ceiling could project a makeshift laser light show or similarly visually stimulating display. Little by little, however, the thick humid air sharing the space with me grew more intrusive, wrapping its tendrils around my neck and increasing its grip with each passing minute. I started to fidget, craving cool, fresh air. Despite the water’s warm temps, I became cold and antsy, my discomfort swelling as I sat up to ponder my options. Ultimately, I pulled a Rick Sanchez, declaring to myself, “I just got bored, everybody out” and bailing at about the 40 minute mark. I opened the hatch, hungrily gulped new air into my lungs, and showered, bookending my blissful respite with the realization that I forgot to bring deodorant. Sigh.


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Is It Worth the High?

Brett: “Yep; cannabis definitely augmented the experience. I don’t think my mind would have wandered as far or in as unique a direction without it. Feeling like I was flying through space, for instance, was (I think) influenced by cannabis, and that was the highlight for me. I wouldn’t necessarily do it again unless the opportunity really presented itself, but I’d definitely recommend that others who are interested give it a try. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, and there’s always value in trying something like that. Plus, I know a lot of people love it.”

Jason: “I don’t think the high is a requirement, but it probably enhanced the experience. It’s hard to say without having a baseline since the experience itself is unusual enough without any additional elements. Nonetheless, I exited the pod relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to book another 60 minute coma somewhere down the road.”

Rebecca: Honestly, I’m not sure. I enjoyed the tank experience for about a half hour but don’t think I could endure a full 60 minutes without feeling claustrophobic or like I was slowly suffocating. I don’t know if the joint augmented my eventual discomfort or temporarily kept it at bay, so your mileage may vary. Either way, I’m not rushing to climb back into a pod any time soon—one and done is good enough for me.

Rebecca Kelley's Bio Image

Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca is the Content Director at Leafly, where she oversees Leafly News production and other content projects.

View Rebecca Kelley's articles

  • lovingc

    Isolation tanks are nothing new. They have been around for decades. The last ones I saw were just like the ones pictured, i saw those more than 30 year ago. The movie “Altered States’ Shows the older tech witch was a vertical tank and a helmet. I prefer the horizontal tanks that you can get in and out of by yourself.

  • Ben Benmini

    Did you three swig a few shots of whiskey back prior to the first time you smoked a joint? Don’t get me wrong, floating after a few puffs can enhance the experience, but getting a baseline first by floating a few times sober seems to be a better way to go about this experiment. Hope you three get to float again sometime soon as it can often take a few sessions to really get deep into the experience!

  • Gary Nelson

    Interesting, however I think they should have done at least two straight just to get comfortable with the tank. Also the tank SUCKS to damn small should you ever give it a shot do nothing short of a room.

    The mind wandering is a tough one. Counting backwards one number with each breath is a good fix. The warm air is an issue but again should have booked one or two before going in high.
    Once you move to the next level you do not notice it. My first time was 90 min and all I could think of was why did I do 90 it’s going to take forever. I have so much to do etc etc then BAM the lights come up after what felt like 15 min.
    This was the one I heard voices way off in the distance, colors and patterns came on float three. So pretty sure I’m set up to have a slightly better time than these three. At least I’m hoping ;+)

  • DoomedNY

    The humid air sounds terrible. Seems like it would be an easy fix.