What You Need to Know About Dabbing
John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
When people hear the term “dabbing,” they might initially think of the dance move that is believed to have originated in the Atlanta rap scene and was later popularized by football star, Cam Newton, who made “the dab” his signature touchdown celebration. But the word dabbing also has a darker side.
In marijuana culture, dabbing refers to the dangerous process of consuming high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. And yet despite the dangers associated with the practice, it is growing in popularity, especially among teens.
What Are Dabs?
Dabs—also referred to as wax, shatter, amber, honeycomb, or budder—are concentrated versions of butane hash oil (BHO) which contains highly-concentrated levels of THC. This concentrated substance is produced through a chemical process using butane oil to extract the oils from the cannabis.
Research suggests that dabs or BHO can have a THC concentration of 80% in comparison to traditional cannabis, which has a concentration of about 10-15% THC. In fact, at a minimum dabs are as much as four times as strong as a joint. Plus, people who dab experience an intense high all at once rather than it gradually building over time.
Dabs are made by pouring butane over marijuana. This process allows the THC to leave the marijuana plant and dissolve into the butane leaving a gummy, somewhat solid product that contains high amounts of THC.
How Dabbing Works
Although marijuana is usually consumed by smoking joints and sometimes through vape pens, dabs are heated to an extremely high temperature and then inhaled. A specifically-designed glass bong commonly called an “oil rig” is used.
The dab is placed on an attached “nail” and a blow torch is used to heat the wax, which produces a vapor that can be inhaled. This type of ingestion means the effects of dabbing are felt immediately.
Many times people will dab by placing hash oil in vaping devices. Teens especially, use this method because it allows them to use hash oil with a very low chance that they will be caught because there is no smoke or distinct smell. Consequently, they often dab in public places, including at school.
Although the process of dabbing is not new, it is growing in popularity in the United States. Scientists attribute this growth to the commercial production of medical marijuana and the legalization of it in numerous states. Both of these factors have led to an increase in instructional videos online as well as a greater social media presence. Consequently, it is becoming more and more popular.
Why Dabbing Is Dangerous
Although some people believe that dabbing is a safer method of ingesting cannabis because it is so highly concentrated and the user only has to take one hit to get high, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply put, there is no safe level of drug use. Any drug—regardless of its purpose—carries some risk. And, dabs are no exception.
Dabbing Is Not the Same as Smoking
In fact, one study found that dabbing can lead to higher tolerance and worse withdrawal symptoms. What’s more, it is dangerous for users to assume that dabbing carries the same risks as smoking marijuana. Instead, most researchers say that dabbing is to marijuana what crack is to cocaine. There is simply no comparison between dabbing and smoking joints.
Harmful Side Effects
Dabbing also includes a number of dangerous side effects like a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, crawling sensations on the skin, loss of consciousness, and psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at Portland State University, found that dabbing also may expose users to elevated levels of toxins including carcinogenic compounds. What the scientists found is that the higher the temperature the substance is exposed to, the more carcinogens, toxins, and potential irritants that are produced.
This fact, in turn, puts users at a greater risk than other methods of getting high because there is a challenge in controlling the nail temperature. As a result, people who dab are being exposed to harmful chemicals including methacrolein and benzene. Likewise, another study found that more than 80% of marijuana extracts are contaminated with poisonous solvents and pesticides.
Dangers of Production
Another danger with dabbing is the fact that making hash oil is one of the riskiest aspects of dabbing. Keep in mind that dabs are made by blasting butane (or lighter fluid) through the marijuana plant. It is highly flammable and unstable. So, adding heat to a substance like this is extremely dangerous.
What’s more, after the process has been completed, any remaining butane is now in the form of gas in the room. As a result, the smallest spark—even one produced by static electricity—can cause an explosion. The risks are similar to that of a meth lab.
Consequently, there have been increasing reports of houses, apartment buildings, and other structures exploding during the extraction process. When this happens, the people involved are either killed or become burn victims with broken bones who need skin grafts and reconstructive surgery.
A Word From Verywell
The bottom line is that dabbing is a potentially dangerous process that comes with real risks to a person’s health and overall well-being. It also is very appealing to teens and young adults.
For this reason, parents and educators need to talk to young people about the risks associated with dabbing while stressing that just one hit can not only put them at risk for lifelong addiction but also can kill them if they take in too much.
Dabbing releases dangerous levels of THC into the body producing an extreme high, but the process is very dangerous. Find out why.
What Are Dabs? Here’s What You Need To Know About Dab Weed
You will probably be surprised to know that dabs are not a new invention. However, this form of weed is gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. With more U.S. states legalizing marijuana, numerous cannabis products like marijuana edibles, CBD oil, THC candy, and more, have become available in the market, including dab weed.
So, what exactly are dabs? Dabs, also known as dab weed, shatter, pull ‘n’ snap, honeycomb, resin, and CO2 wax, are a form of weed that comes in the form of a concentrate. A dab high is usually felt ten minutes after using and could last for about two hours. The high experienced from dabs is much more intense than smoking weed.
What are dabs made out of?
Dabs are usually made from the stems, leftover shake, and other leftover materials from the cannabis plant. A concentrate is extracted from the marijuana dry herb and over the years, the process of extraction has become more sophisticated.
Dab weed is usually extracted by using butane, which then produces what is known as butane hash oil or BHO. Butane is a very flammable chemical. If you’re wondering if it is the same gas found in butane gas cylinders usually used in camping trips, then you’re right.
During the extraction process, the butane is used to extract the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other essential elements. The butane is then removed through evaporation, which leaves a resinous, sticky oil that is usually amber in color. There are, however, different types of extracts depending on the method of extraction and the process used.
The most common dab varieties are the following:
Honey Oil – This has a thick liquid consistency with a dark golden or amber color. It is also known as honeycomb, oil, and 710.
Shatter – This dab variety comes as a semi-transparent thin sheet of concentrate, almost resembling an amber glass. This type of dab can easily break below room temperature.
Butter – This type of dab has a doughy consistency. It is malleable and resembles peanut butter.
Wax – This variety of dab weed often resembles brown sugar as it is coarse and crumbly. It can sometimes resemble earwax in terms of consistency and color.
Live Resin – Unlike other dab varieties extracted from dry herbs, this dab variety is not made from dry herbs. Instead, it is made from fresh plants that did not undergo the normal drying process. It is one of the hard-to-find dabs
What are dab pens? Are they better than dab rigs?
Dabs can either be smoked or vaporized. The traditional way to dab is by using a dab rig. A dab rig setup consists of a water pipe and a metal piece called a nail. When dabbing, you will also need a blow torch to heat up the nail and another metal tool to get the dab and put it into the nail.
For someone who is not familiar with the process, it can be quite complicated and even risky to master the process of dabbing. This is the reason why an increasing number of dab users prefer to buy a dab pen.
A dab pen is a vaporizer that is quite similar to vape pens and e-cigarettes. The device has been modified so the user can take a single hit of the dab concentrate (usually oil, wax or shatter). Just like a vape pen, there is a heating element that heats up the dab weed to reach the correct temperature.
Many first-time users prefer to use dab pens because they are much easier to use and less complicated. They are also more discreet and portable because you don’t really need to carry around suspicious dab paraphernalia with you. You can put a dab pen in your pocket just like any other vape pen.
What are the side effects of dabbing? Dangers associated with dabs
When you vaporize dabs using a vaporizer, it is said to be theoretically safer for the lungs compared to smoking weed as there is no combustion. This argument is often an excuse used by people who use dabs over smoking weed. But are there negative side effects associated with dab weed?
Explosions in the extraction process
One of the dangers associated with dab weed takes place during the extraction process. Because butane is often used, people who attempt home extraction of dabs must be aware that the process can cause dangerous explosions. This is especially true for people without much experience in the process.
Consuming an excess amount of THC can result in hospitalization
Dabs can have up to 80-90% of THC, which is the hallucinogenic compound of cannabis. To put it in perspective, some of the strongest varieties of weed that people smoke often contain only up to 25% of THC. The high that is experienced when dabbing is much stronger and quicker than smoking weed.
Because dabs are extremely potent, it is easy to consume an excess amount without the user realizing it. Many people are unable to proceed with their daily activities after dabbing because of how potent the concentrate is. There have also been documented reports of inexperienced dab users who were hospitalized due to the extreme hallucinogenic effects.
Paranoia, Psychosis, and Anxiety
These are side effects usually experienced by people who are heavy weed users. With dabs, even if you only take a small hit, these side effects are possible due to the extremely high amount of THC.
The high amount of THC could build your tolerance to THC and marijuana quite quickly. If you are a regular user, developing tolerance will often result in higher doses over time. The possibility of transitioning to other more dangerous narcotics is present especially if you are not getting the same high.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals
Another risk faced by dab users is exposure to hazardous chemicals. This happens when they get their dabs from sellers who are not reputable. Many sellers try to mix other hazardous chemicals with dabs to make more money. This practice is common, especially in counterfeit prefilled dab pens or cartridges.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, help is available.
What are Dabs? Did you know that the high experienced from dabs is much more intense than smoking weed, learn more about Dab Weed.