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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dabbing releases dangerous levels of THC into the body producing an extreme high, but the process is very dangerous. Find out why.
The study focused on terpenes, the oils that give cannabis its distinctive smell. Although terpenes occur naturally in plants, condiments, and some foods, they can also be found in some cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and, most recently, electronic cigarettes. During the study, researchers were able to identify high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and methacrolein, a noxious irritant, in the vapor. The researchers also pointed out that controlling the nail temperature is difficult, which can put users at an even greater risk of exposing themselves to those chemicals.
In research published in September 2017 in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Omega, study authors warn of toxic chemicals in the vapor created during the dabbing process. This typically involves heating marijuana through a “nail” (a glass pipe and a metal rod), which is then torched with butane.
It delivers a more concentrated dose of THC, for a faster, stronger high.
According to NBC’s medical correspondent John Torres, MD, an emergency medicine physician in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the most dangerous part of dabbing, short-term, is that it can cause heart palpitations, anxiety, and panic attacks. The longterm consequences, per Dr. Torres, is that it can cause addiction or dependency problems, along with issues surrounding learning and thinking.
According to a new investigative report by NBC’s TODAY, “dabbing”—or smoking concentrated THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you high—is on the rise among teenagers, though it isn’t exactly a new practice in general. According to a survey by Axios, per NBC, 50% of the 18- to 24-year-olds polled have dabbed before or know someone who has. That number fell to 32% of 25- to 34-year-olds, and continued to decline through the age of 65.
But exposure to toxins isn’t the only dabbing risk identified by the researchers. The amateur heating process, known as “blasting,” also comes with fire risks, per an email sent to Newsweek from John Stogner, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
While the most popular ways of using marijuana are rolling it into a joint, smoking it through a bong, or eating it in brownies and other edible forms, dabbing involves placing a small amount (aka, a “dab”) of concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana), on a hot surface, or in a traditional pipe or dab pen, and inhaling the vapor. It’s used, in large part, for those who want a faster, stronger hit—per NBC, a typical joint contains about 25% THC, but a dab can have up to 90% of the psychoactive component.
Stogner, who has previously studied the dangers of dabbing, shared that fires, explosions, and severe burns can be attributed to blasting. “Although blasting may be an appealing project for a young cannabis user, the safety risks have been described as comparable to those of manufacturing methamphetamine,” he said. While many newer dabbing devices can reduce this risk, that information still feels like enough to give anyone pause about the practice.
As news surrounding the dangers of vaping continues to quiet down, another trend among teens has popped up—and it too carries some pretty major health risks.
In a new investigative report by NBC's "TODAY," dabbing—or smoking a concentrated form of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot—is on the rise among US teens. Here's what you need to know about the dangers of dabbing.