“Dabbing,” a relatively new trend in marijuana use, has taken the drug to an extremely dangerous level. What has often been considered “the lesser of the drug evils,” marijuana use now has the potential for serious harm. A discussion with a teen or young adult about their use of marijuana must now not only include questions of whether an individual is using it, but also about how they are.
What is dabbing?
Known by the alternative names earwax, shatter, and honey oil, “dabbing” refers to butane hash oil, a marijuana extract that is almost pure THC. Butane hash oil (BHO) is made through a process of extraction in which marijuana is treated with butane, a solvent that extracts the THC compounds from the flower. Evaporating away the butane leaves only the resin, a viscous, amber-colored, waxy substance that resembles caramel or thick honey. What’s left over is a product that is 70-90% THC (average premium grade marijuana has approximately 10-25%). BHO is then vaporized, either in a pan or by using a dabbing pipe. A needle-like tool, or “dabber,” is used to grab the oil and apply it to whatever is being used to smoke it. Taking a “dab” results in a concentrated hit of extremely potent THC.
The extraction process used to make BHO is dangerous and deadly.
The process of butane extraction is not in itself dangerous nor unhealthy. In fact, butane extraction is a common technique used in the food industry to extract oil from peanuts and vitamins from vegetables, among other uses. However, teens and young adults attempting to make BHO typically use products that contain dangerous chemicals or solvents if ingested. Butane lighter fluid, a commonly used product, contains multiple chemicals that can be left behind in the process and consumed by the user.
Butane, propane, acetone, and other products used to extract THC concentrates are explosive and highly flammable. People who are already abusing drugs, and who have no technical knowledge often perform the process, which can be a deadly combination.
The health risks associated with cannabis use are amplified by “dabbing.”
What was once considered a relatively harmless drug, marijuana use now contributes to serious mental issues. Over time, psychoactive effects are the results of the severe impact on brain chemistry.
These negative impacts of BHO use include:
- Severe agitation
- Respiratory problems
- Severely impaired reaction time and motor skills
- Psychosis and schizophrenia
- Paranoia and panic
- Heart palpitations
- Intensified feelings of depression
- Cognitive impairment
The common perception that marijuana is a safe, benign drug has to shift because of the new ways that people are finding to ingest it. THC levels are at the highest they have ever been in teens and young adults. Professionals in the field of chemical dependency and mental health are seeing a rise both the number of issues and the severity in teens and young adults who “dab.” It is important to be aware of the trends surrounding drug use, and to talk openly with adolescents about the realities of prolonged use. Open discussion and communication is key to preventing an individual from beginning down a very dangerous path.