6 Health Risks Of Doing Dabs
Other than the traditional act of smoking marijuana, these days, users can vape, bake edibles, and use topicals or tonics to get high in states where THC consumption is legal. Body lotion and chapstick with cannabidiol (CBD) exist, too, to deliver purported relaxing effects without the high. But not all methods of getting stoned are as good as others. In fact, there are some that might be outright dangerous. Ever heard of dabbing?
Dabs are highly concentrated doses of cannabis, and they’re often made at home by by placing marijuana trimmings into a glass or metal pipe and blasting them with butane to extract THC from the plant. The result is a thick, sticky substance that resembles hardened candle wax. This substance, also called butane hash oil (BHO), is then smoked using a bong or pipe, giving an extremely potent high. Because of this high and the possible danger of extracting it, experts urge caution when creating and using dabs.
“The number one reason amongst users of dabs of why they prefer to regular marijuana inhalation is because it gives them a faster more intense euphoria or ‘high,'” Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist, gastroenterologist, and adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College, tells Bustle. “It carries the same risks as smoking, only more pronounced, and the effects can happen quicker.”
Basically, dabbing carries a lot of health risks that potential users should know about before considering it.
1. You Could Severely Burn Yourself During The Extraction Process
The extraction process requires everyday folks to use butane, which is a highly volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous gas. A 2015 study about the health risks of dabbing published in the journal Pediatrics, found that it’s all too easy to obtain severe burns and injuries in the creation process. Butane can heat up the metal or glass used to extract THC so high that any body parts that come into contact with the materials can be burned in the blink of an eye.
“This can lead to other concerns besides the increased THC exposure, namely intense burns and even fires,” Dr. Sonpal says.
2. It Could Harm Other People As Well
Not only is the primary user subject to getting injured by using butane to turn marijuana into dabs, but they also run the risk of starting a fire. In November 2013, a man caused an explosion in his apartment building while using butane to extract dabs, and was ultimately sentenced to nine years in prison.
3. The High Is Extremely Powerful
To give you a sense of how strong dabs are, two nicknames for dabs are “shatter” and “pot on steroids.” Dr. Dustin Sulak, a licensed osteopathic physician in Maine who legally dispenses marijuana, told Healthline, “A single inhalation of concentrate delivers the THC and other cannabinoids equivalent to three to 10 inhalations of herbal cannabis, depending on the potency.” The danger lies in the fact that doing dabs slams your system with this concentrated high in one fell swoop.
4. It May Increase Your Tolerance To Marijuana
Dr. Sulak actually thinks that the potency of dabs is more of a concern than potentially blowing up your house during the extraction process. Dabs have such a strong dose of THC, administered so suddenly, that your body becomes accustomed to high levels of THC and your tolerance increases rapidly.
“This is because the cannabinoid receptors are saturated by the increased concentrations and thus your next intake will be more difficult to achieve the same high,” Dr. Sonpal says. “In other words, patients will need large amounts to feel any high at all and, even worse, they may fail to get high from herbal cannabis at all after your body gets used to dabs.”
5. You Might Experience Side Effects
You might also experience more of the potential side effects that come with THC and frequently getting high.
“Paranoia, psychosis, anxiety, and hallucinations are well-known side effects of inhaling weed,” Dr. Sonpal says. “Symptoms of vomiting can also occur and I have seen patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). It can occur with chronic marijuana use, and more specifically, after someone has quit. However, with dabs I have had patients who develop the withdrawal-like symptoms of CHS only after a short exposure.”
6. You May Be Unknowingly Ingesting Other Hazardous Chemicals
The equipment used for the extraction process may contain nasty ingredients that will eventually make their way into your system. For example, the metal in the rig utilized to make dabs could have rust and solder in it, which will inevitably end up in your BHO and into your body. Smoking these unknown chemical contaminants could cause health hazards, such as respiratory issues, in the future.
At the end of the day, dabbing can be risky. “The only true way to mitigate these effects is the avoidance of dabs,” Dr. Sonpal says, adding that more research needs to be done to full understand the effects of THC and other cannabinoids on the body. “When it comes to dabs, it is just simply too hard to moderate as the concentrations are very very high.” Moderation and safety is key, Dr. Sonpal says, which is sound advice no matter the activity.
Readers should note that the regulations and data surrounding marijuana, CBD, and other related products are still developing. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as medical or legal advice. Always consult with your doctor before trying any substance or supplement.
This post was originally published on August 3, 2016. It was updated on June 11, 2019.
This article was originally published on Aug. 3, 2016
Other than the traditional act of smoking marijuana, these days, users can vape, bake edibles, and use topicals or tonics to get high in states where THC consumption is legal. Body lotion and chapstick with cannabidiol (CBD) exist, too, to deliverвЂ¦
Are Dabs Bad for You? Side Effects of Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates
This article is sponsored by The Dab Lab, a California-based online head shop dedicated to bringing you the best dab rigs, pipes, and glass bongs. Whether you are looking for cheap or heady glass, they’ve got you covered!
Cannabis concentrates have come under scrutiny over the past few years, mainly due to their rapid increase in popularity among enthusiasts. What was once a relatively unknown niche in an ever-growing legal market has since become a cultural phenomenon, generating an entire subculture in its wake. Many believe that concentrates will soon surpass the sales volume of traditional cannabis flower marketwide.
Compare Cannabis Concentrates
Unfortunately, the mainstream media has taken a click-bait approach to coverage of dabbing, focusing less on discussion of the practice and far more on hysterical descriptions of its alleged dangers. Some outlets have gone so far as to deem dabs “the crack of marijuana.” Yet even with dozens of articles addressing the topic, the question of whether dabbing is safe has yet to be answered in full.
Are Dabs Dangerous or Safe?
“Dabbing” is used as a catchall term to refer to the practice of melting a cannabis concentrate over a heat source and inhaling the subsequent vapor. The question of its safety can be broken down and answered by addressing five major misconceptions.
The first misconception is the most frustrating, because it confuses the dangers of illegal amateur extraction with the dangers of extracts themselves. Cannabis extracts that are manufactured with light hydrocarbons such as butane or propane require the use of closed-loop systems and extreme safety measures. Manufacturing concentrates illegally by resorting to the use of open-source extraction techniques (i.e. “open blasting”) is highly dangerous and potentially lethal.
The fact that amateurs have attempted to undertake this process at home has resulted in explosions, serious injury, and occasionally death. This has led to news articles stigmatizing this entire culture, with headlines such as “Dabbing: A New Explosive Trend.” Professionally made concentrates are neither explosive nor lethal, and there is never an excuse for extracts to be made otherwise.
The second misconception with dabbing is that the practice necessitates dangerous tools, most notably blow torches. There are numerous ways to heat a dab, including e-nails, which omit the necessity of using a torch and help prevent injury.
That said, when using a standard nail (one of the most popular surfaces to dab on), a torch is generally used to heat the nail. Torches do require a degree of mindfulness and can be mildly dangerous if used irresponsibly. However, any person who is capable of using a cooking stove should be able to use a torch without harming themselves. Hot nails can cause burns, but the same can be said of any stovetop burner in a kitchen. In this way, torches and nails are no more or less dangerous than cooking dinner.
Are Some Cannabis Concentrates Safer Than Others?
The third misconception lies in the idea that all concentrates are created equal. “Dabs,” an umbrella term for all cannabis concentrates, can refer to a number of cannabis-derived substances that have been mechanically separated (such as kief or dry sift, cold water hash, and rosin), as well as cannabis extracts, which use a chemical solvent (such as butane, propane, CO2, or even ethanol winterization) to strip active biomolecules and essential oils from cannabis.
In short, not all concentrates are extracts, and not all extracts contain meaningful amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals. To understand dabbing safety, it’s essential to recognize that the only concentrates that pose a health threat are those that not only employ chemicals for the purpose of extraction, but that also retain high levels of those chemical compounds when the extraction process is complete. Generally speaking, the only concentrates that fall into this category are those that are made cheaply, improperly, or by amateur extractors.
Are Dabs Bad for You and Your Physical Health?
The fourth misconception surrounding dabbing revolves around the safety of inhaling the vapor from the cannabis concentrates themselves. The question of whether or not dabs are harmful to one’s health has been heavily scrutinized, yet it’s still frustratingly difficult for newcomers to find accurate information.
In order to address concerns like “is dabbing bad for my lungs” or “is dabbing bad for my brain,” a few things must be noted. First and foremost, all concentrates contain cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. These have never been proven to negatively impact brain or lung function in adult consumers.
In addition to these three components, some concentrates also contain a very low (below about 500 PPM) concentration of residual hydrocarbons (depending on the extraction method). According to states including Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, concentrate testing below this threshold for residual hydrocarbon content are deemed safe for consumption. While the number 500 might sound worrisome out of context, to put the safety concerns of 500 PPM into perspective, your lungs receive about that much butane when lighting a joint with a butane lighter.
Furthermore, states that permit the sale of recreational cannabis concentrates require lab analyses for every product sold through a legal vendor, and anything showing up in a lab test containing other foreign contaminants is rejected for sale. Dabbing is safe so long as you are buying a concentrate that has been tested clean and that comes from a reputable licensed vendor.
How Much Stronger are Cannabis Concentrates Than Flower?
The final concern around dabbing is that concentrates are significantly stronger than cannabis flowers. This is absolutely true. Alleviating this concern is as easy as understanding that inexperienced dabbers should dose much smaller amounts when trying concentrates for the first time; cannabis concentrates are to dry herb as hard liquor is to beer.
That said, the side effects of dabbing overconsumption are far less dire than those linked to overconsumption of hard alcohol. In fact, they’re not so different from the effects of eating too much sugar—lethargy and mild nausea, occasionally accompanied by a brief period of paranoia.
Proper dosing can be a little tricky due to the high THC density of concentrates, but consulting with your budtender or an experienced dabber beforehand can help avoid the undesirable experience of consuming too much.
How to Dab Safely
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while dabbing cannabis concentrates, take note of the following dabbing tips:
- Avoid low-quality products. Only purchase lab-tested cannabis concentrates from reputable sources, and ask your budtender about testing results and recommendations.
- Learn to use a dab rig properly. This includes understanding the tools involved, being mindful of heating devices and hot surfaces, and investing in a dab rig you feel comfortable with.
- Never attempt to perform chemical extraction at home. If you’re interested in experimenting with concentrates safely, try making your own rosin.
- Dose your concentrates responsibly. Start with less: A tiny dab can be much stronger than a full bowl of flower. The good news with dabs: You don’t have to consume as much to feel the same effects!
Learn about the safety of dabbing cannabis concentrates, whether there are associated side effects, and how to most enjoy your dabbing experience.