Dabbing has been around for about a decade, but it is slowly becoming more prevalent among casual marijuana consumers in recent years. Sensational headlines have called dabbing “the crack of cannabis” or the “meth of marijuana.”
Essentially, what a dab is a small dose of highly concentrated cannabis that is heated on a hot surface and then inhaled. If you have never tried dabbing before, do yourself a favor and read this first.
What Is Dabbing?
Dabs are concentrated doses — typically about the size of a Tic-Tac breath mint — of marijuana. Dabs are manufactured by extracting THC, most commonly by using a solvent such as butane. The end product is a potent oil often referred to as wax, honey, shatter, budder, crumble or butane hash oil (BHO).
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The THC levels in most concentrates can reach 70-90 percent THC. For context, a typical marijuana joint contains about 15 percent THC. Using a blowtorch (think creme brulee torch), the user heats the oil on a “dab rig”. The user then inhales the vapor, producing a that hits quickly and forcefully. This is NOT advised for those unfamiliar with marijuana.
Is It Dangerous?
The simple answer is yes. No doubt you have read scary headlines about houses exploding or garages catching fire because of dabbing. But let’s be clear: That danger is from the manufacturing of the concentrate, not the actual smoking of it.
The extraction process involves using butane, a highly flammable gas that requires a lot of ventilation. Do-it-yourself amateurs attempting to make concentrates at home are responsible for the headlines.
NOTE: Do NOT make it yourself. Even if you fancy yourself as a chemist, it is illegal in nearly every jurisdiction. Instead, purchase professionally produced concentrates. Period. Store-bought concentrates are lab tested and are safe for consumption.
Actually inhaling the dab is not necessarily dangerous, but it is much more potent than smoking a joint. Remember, this is cannabis in a concentrated form. A little goes a long way. The danger is in doing too much in a short timeframe.
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The safe way to do it is in moderation. Take a small hit and wait. Sit down. Be mindful of your surroundings. Think of it as taking a shot of tequila instead of sipping a beer.
Who Is Doing It?
Dabbing became popular in Southern California about a decade ago mostly among younger cannabis tokers because of its potency. And the typical stereotype is that the dabbing culture is younger, more urban and edgier. Over the years, older, more experienced cannabis consumers have started dabbing because it is a more cost-effective, quicker method of reaching a desired intoxicated state.
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Although not many doctors would consider dabbing an appropriate medicinal method, there are many medical marijuana patients who have gone this route because it is more affordable, faster to relieve pain and longer lasting. For those dealing with severe or chronic pain or intense nausea may find dabbing effective.
What Are The Side Effects?
If you are new to the experience, be prepared for a much more intense high. It is recommended that you stay seated when dabbing because fainting is possible. Other possible side effects include a rapid heartbeat, paranoia and hallucinations.
If you feel any of these symptoms, hydrate, lay down and close your eyes.
Remember, you can’t suffer a fatal overdose from cannabis — and that includes dabbing. But you can harm yourself if you should fall down. It is intense, but not deadly.
One thing that is almost guaranteed to happen: You will cough. Dabber’s cough is common.
Should You Do It?
It is not recommended for newcomers to marijuana. If you have an understanding of how your body reacts to cannabis, give it a try. It’s a different experience than smoking or vaping dried herb.
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, cautions that it is riskier than smoking a joint. “When a product is more potent, and when the route of administration is conducive to people experiencing a very strong high very quickly, then one can argue that the risk of abuse goes up,” he said.