When people hear the term “dabbing,” they may initially think of the dance move that is said to have originated in the Atlanta rap scene and was later popularized by soccer star, Cam Newton, who performed his signature “the dab” celebration.
But in cannabis culture, dabbing refers to the process of consuming high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis. Despite the dangers associated with this practice, it’s growing in popularity — especially among teenagers.
This article covers what dabs are, what’s in them, how dabbing works, and its possible dangerous side effects.
What is Dabs?
Dabs — also known as wax, shards, amber, honeycomb, or bud — are a concentrated version of butane hash oil (BHO) that contains high concentrations of THC. This concentrate is produced through a chemical process that uses butane oil to extract the oil from the cannabis plant.
Research shows that dabs or BHO can have an 80% THC concentration compared to traditional cannabis, which has a concentration of about 10% to 15% THC. In fact, at a minimum, dabs are four times stronger than joints. Plus, those who apply experience intense highs all at once rather than gradually building highs over time.
Dabs are made by pouring butane on top of cannabis. This process extracts THC from the cannabis plant and dissolves it into butane leaving a slightly solid, pliable product that contains a high amount of THC.
History of Dabbing
One review found that Americans have been applying it since at least the 1960s. Soldiers in the Vietnam conflict extracted THC into a liquid concentrate, using acetone or gasoline as the solvent. (Today, butane is the most commonly used solvent used to make bread dips.) They draw the concentrate by rolling it in paper, sometimes in combination with tobacco.
Some researchers also note that “community journals”, such as Peak contributed to the widespread popularity of BHO concentrates. The Peak BHO concentrate describes it as “an easier method of using the once wasted parts of the cannabis plant” and also notes that BHO can help with pain.
How Dabbing Works
While marijuana is commonly consumed by smoking joints and sometimes through vape pens, dabs are heated to extremely high temperatures and then inhaled. A specially designed glass bubble commonly known as an “oil rig” is used.
The dot tip is placed on an attached “nail” and a torch is used to heat the wax, creating a vapor that can be inhaled. This type of oral administration means that the effects of the application are felt immediately.
People can also dip into vaping devices with minced oil. This method is especially popular among teenagers because it allows them to use hash oil with a very low chance of being caught because there is no smoke or distinct smell. As a result, they can rush into public places, including at schools.
Although the application process is not new, it is growing in popularity in the United States. The researchers attribute this growth to the commercial production of medical marijuana and its legalization in many states. Both of these factors have led to an increase in online video tutorials as well as a greater presence on social media. Therefore, it is becoming more and more popular.
Dangerous when applied
Although some people believe that applying cannabis is a safer method of ingesting marijuana because it is so concentrated and one hit with a single hit can achieve a high score, that could not be far from the fact that real. Simply put, there is no completely safe level of drug use. Any drug – whatever its purpose – has some risks. Dabs is no exception.
Clap is not like smoking
In fact, one study found that marijuana use can lead to greater tolerance and worse withdrawal symptoms than traditional marijuana use alone. Furthermore, it is very dangerous for people to assume that applying the drug has the same level of risk as smoking marijuana.
Harmful side effects
The topical application has been associated with some dangerous side effects such as heart palpitations, blackouts, crawling sensation on the skin, loss of consciousness, and psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at Portland State University found that applying grease can also expose people to high levels of toxins including cancer-causing compounds. What the scientists discovered was that the higher the temperature to which the substance was exposed, the more carcinogens, toxins and potential irritants were produced.
The heat required for rubbing puts people at greater risk than with other methods. As a result, people who apply the medication are being exposed to harmful chemicals including methacrolein and benzene. Likewise, another study found that more than 80% of cannabis extracts were contaminated with toxic solvents and pesticides.
Another danger of dab is production. Making hash oil is actually one of the riskiest aspects of oiling. Dabs are made by blowing butane or a lighter liquid – a highly flammable and unstable substance – through the cannabis plant. Adding heat to these substances is extremely dangerous.
Furthermore, after the process is complete, any remaining butane remains in the room as a gas. As a result, the slightest spark – even a spark created by static electricity – can cause an explosion. The risks are similar to those in the meth lab.
As a result, there are increasing reports of houses, apartment buildings and other structures exploding during mining. When this happens, those involved are at risk of severe burns requiring skin grafts or reconstructive surgery, fractures, and even death.
Can you overdose on Dabs?
It is possible to overdose on dabs. However, an overdose is unlikely to be fatal. It’s worth noting, however, that more research is needed on the harms of topical application and the possibility of a person taking an overdose.
If you overdose on dabs, you will likely experience some of the following side effects:
- Hypotension (increased heart rate and blood pressure)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Panic attacks
A very good word
The bottom line is that topical application is a potentially dangerous process that comes with real risks to one’s overall health and well-being. It is also very attractive to teenagers and young adults. For this reason, parents and educators need to talk to young people about the risks associated with brushing.
If you or a loved one has been bitten, you should seek professional help. You can start with a primary care doctor. They can refer you to a mental health professional who can help address substance use and teach healthier coping mechanisms.
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