What is Dabbing?
Dabbing is the process of using a form of the drug called a “dab,” which is a small amount of cannabis extract (primarily butane hash oil). Dabbing can be more dangerous than other forms of cannabis use, which makes this growing trend especially concerning.
BHO can be smoked through a water pipe, oil pipe, or glass bong. It is also popular to use e-cigarette or vaporizers to vape the dabs. These provide an odorless, smokeless way to use marijuana that is easy to conceal. BHO can also be added to food or drink. Edibles with BHO make it possible for individuals to ingest highly concentrated THC. This is reported to result in a much more potent high than smoking, and it has potentially caused some issues with people suddenly passing out and having trouble breathing.
Butane hash oil (BHO) is the primary extract used in dab weed. The creation of this concentrated form of marijuana involves butane, which is a very explosive chemical. This process can cause explosions and thus is dangerous.
The butane is then removed, resulting in a sticky, resinous dab. However, the consistency of this substance can vary, depending on the details of its creation. Other names used for BHO or dab include:
- Honey oil
- Black glass
This extract can be 50-80 percent THC. Comparatively, regular marijuana is typically only about 12-13 percent THC. This means that less of the substance is needed to get the same high and that side effects can be more consequential.
The Risks of Dabbing
Because dabbing involves using marijuana with a much higher THC concentration, its physical and psychological effects may be more severe. Additionally, an article from Pediatrics states that, in creating the vapor to be smoked, the paraphernalia on which the dab is placed is often heated to temperatures greater than 400 degrees Celsius. Besides the obvious dangers of burns and starting a fire, this can also lead to the individual inhaling benzene, rust, and off-gassing solder, associated with long-term health dangers. Furthermore, another study found that over 80% of the cannabis concentrates were contaminated with pesticides and residual solvents.
As mentioned before, because creating BHO involves the flammable chemical butane, it can cause dangerous explosions. Some say that the dangers of making BHO are similar to those of making methamphetamine. A study from the Journal of Medical Toxicology evaluated a selection of cases where the patient had BHO burns. They found that the median burn size was 10 percent of a patient’s total body surface area. The median length that patients had to stay in the hospital was ten days. Over 20 percent required intubation to protect the individual’s airway, and over 60 percent needed skin grafting.
Unfortunately, the potential risks of dabbing are not fully understood because there isn’t enough research into it yet. It is speculated that dabbing may be linked to a higher risk of falls, accidents, and losing consciousness than regular marijuana use. However, further study is needed.
Dab Abuse & Withdrawal
Using marijuana as a teenager may negatively affect brain development, and it is linked with a heightened risk of psychosis. Dabbing is likely to have similar effects.
One study found that individuals reported higher tolerance and withdrawal from dabbing, which indicates that dabbing may increase the likelihood of addiction or dependence. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Changes in appetite
- Sweating, fever, and chills
- Stomach pain
Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder
The false belief that marijuana is not addictive may lead people not to seek treatment for themselves or their loved ones. However, it is estimated that over 4 million Americans age 12 and older had a cannabis use disorder in 2017. Signs that an individual is suffering from a cannabis use disorder include:
- Continuing using cannabis even though it is causing trouble with relationships or other social issues
- Stopping or decreasing other activities because of marijuana use
- Having problems fulfilling essential responsibilities at school, work, or home due to regular marijuana use.
- Using marijuana repeatedly use in dangerous situations
- Continuing using cannabis even when faced with significant consequences
- Using the drug more or in larger amounts than intended
- Persistently wanting to or unsuccessfully trying to decrease or stop marijuana use
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from cannabis
- Craving marijuana
- Experiencing tolerance and withdrawal
Thankfully, marijuana addiction is treatable. Research on cannabis use disorder treatments suggests that a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management leads to the best abstinence results. These interventions can help individuals avoid relapsing to dabbing and other marijuana use and help them better function on a day-to-day basis.
Why is Dabbing 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: 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 several 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. The scientists found 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 that making hash oil is one of the riskiest aspects of dabbing. Remember 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 slightest spark—even one produced by static electricity—can cause an explosion. The risks are similar to that of a meth lab.
Consequently, increasing reports of houses, apartment buildings, and other structures exploding during the extraction process. When this happens, the people involved are either killed or burn victims with broken bones who need skin grafts and reconstructive surgery.
At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about dabbing and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
 Pubs.acs.org – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acsomega.7b01130#cor1
 Get Smart about Drugs – Other names used for BHO or dab – https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/content/what-you-should-know-about-marijuana-concentrates-honey-butane-oil
 Get Smart about Drugs – BHO can be smoked – https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/content/what-you-should-know-about-marijuana-concentrates-honey-butane-oil
 Pediatrics – http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/1/1?utm_source=highwire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Pediatrics_etoc
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26558460
 Journal of Medical Toxicology – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13181-015-0501-0
 Pediatrics – https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/1/1
 APA Org – https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain.aspx
 Science Direct – https://www.sciencedirect.com/user/error/ATN-20?errorContext=arp-a23164ec-93ea-46b5-976b-ecce9a3f0dfa
 NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
 SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017.pdf
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880536/