The Dangers of Dabbing: Is Pot Getting More Hazardous?

Addiction Resource > Addictive Substances: The Anatomy of Drug Addiction > Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment > The Dangers of Dabbing: Is Pot Getting More Hazardous?
For the past few years, the cannabis community has been obsessed with dabbing; an increasingly popular method of marijuana consumption which causes euphoric high amongst users and raises serious concerns about potential risks.

Dab Addiction

Presumably, dabbing dates back to the 1970s, when a small group of marijuana users developed the technique. Due to the advent of superior extraction methods in recent years, it has become a widespread hype among marijuana users, especially high school seniors and college students.

How Does Dabbing Work?

The concentrated butane hash oil (BHO), which goes by many names, including “honey oil,” “wax,” or “crumble,” is the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, which contains between 50 and 90 percent THC (your typical joint contains up to 20 percent). Dabbing refers to the process of vaporizing this substance through heating it on a hot surface and inhaling the smoke.

It’s the new trend among marijuana users, and it’s rapidly gaining popularity. Dabbing is known to cause a tremendously intense high and there is an ever-rising controversy surrounding the phenomenon. With the increasing popularity special dab vaporizer pens, medical experts have begun to raise awareness about the potential health hazards associated with its use and critics alarm that many dangers lie ahead.

Addiction professional with a phone

Hope Without Commitment

Find the best treatment options.
Call our free and confidential helpline

Hazards and Environmental Risk

Extraction of the BHO concentrate itself can be a dangerous endeavor. Popular forums and YouTube videos outline a step-by-step guide of the process, and many users feel confident enough to try it at home. However, it is possible to ignite the butane vapors, thus causing skin burns, fires, and explosions of all sorts. In this regard, the preparation of the substance uncomfortably reminds of cooking meth or crack. Cases have been reported of houses blowing up due to the overconfidence of amateur dabbers.

In addition, there are concerns about pollution caused by the butane oil itself as it may contain chemical contaminants. The fuel, which is sold for use in lighters, can often contain eighty percent butane, and the rest would be chemicals such as thiols or sulfur dioxide. Experts warn that those chemicals can be harmful if ingested and that this kind of butane should never be used for dabbing. Retailers are known to make extensive claims with regards to the refinement and quality of the butane they sell, but those are often not supported by evidence.

And that is not all; experts also worry about the quality of the marijuana itself. Contaminants, such as pesticides and fungi have appeared in many marijuana tests.

Evaporating the solvent would actually cause a concentration of those harmful ingredients and could potentially cause harm to the immune and nervous systems.

Health Risks

As an extreme form of marijuana consumption, dabbing hides the same risks as smoking, only more pronounced. Paranoia, psychosis, anxiety, and hallucinations are often cited as side effects of inhaling the substance. But what’s even more frightening is the possibility of addiction or dependence. Because of the stronger high, dabbing is associated with more intense reward triggers and thus a deeper craving for repeated use.

A survey of about 350 frequent marijuana users revealed that they view dabbing as more dangerous than smoking cannabis, mainly because it leads to worse withdrawal symptoms.

What is more, due to the high concentration of BHO in dabbing, it now seems possible to overdose on cannabis. While information is still limited, critics are alarmed that the concentrate may lead to very uncomfortable highs and passing out.

A Polarizing Topic

Recent years have seen an upsurge in marijuana legalization among the country. Medical or recreational use is now legal in twenty-five states, and another sixteen are on their way.

Marijuana is generally perceived as being safe, especially when compared to harsher drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Attitudes are changing fast; an overwhelming fifty-four percent of registered American voters support legalization of the substance. The perceived health benefits of marijuana have made the fight much easier for supporters due to the emergence of scientific evidence in their favor. Some of the most commonly cited benefits include slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, treating arthritis discomfort, relieving anxiety, easing the pain of multiple sclerosis, and reducing pain and nausea from chemotherapy.

However, recent reports of negative experiences, including health risks and damage to property associated with the ever-evolving methods of using pot, might just change that. Although some of the benefits of medicinal marijuana are clear, concerns about abuse are not. The increasing popularity of dabbing adds a new spectrum to the debate.

John Stogner, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, co-authored a paper on the emergence of dabbing in 2015. According to him, the rising popularity of dabbing can be attributed to the latest developments in the legalization of pot for medicinal and recreational purposes.

In the states where marijuana can be bought legally, it is also possible to purchase the butane oil extracts necessary for producing the “dab.” Dabbers often use modified water pipes, known as dab rigs, although sometimes the substance may be stored in e-cigarettes. This could cause concern among citizens, especially parents, who are worried about the adverse outcomes associated with the relaxed laws on purchasing cannabis.

To Dab or Not to Dab?

While there is more research to be done, concerns about the potential risks of dabbing are getting stronger and more pronounced. Most experts agree that marijuana use is not recommended for teens as it hinders the proper development of their brains.

A study conducted in 2015 showed that over eighty percent of marijuana extracts were contaminated with pesticides or other solvents caused by the extraction process. What is more, waxes used for dabbing can often be made from trimmings instead of actual cannabis flowers.

Some producers are willing to undertake the legal risk associated with this practice because of the expectation of high profits, which leaves potential buyers vulnerable. The market is not yet regulated accordingly, which makes purchasing concentrates risky business.

Given those concerns, together with a greater, more addictive high and the increased health risks, dabbing seems like a hazardous venture.