Dabbing: What You Need to Know About the Latest Marijuana Craze
Have you heard of dabbing? Dubbed the "crack of pot,” dabbing is a form of consuming highly concentrated marijuana in a vaporized form and has been described as freebasing marijuana in popular media outlets. Once an underground practice, this dangerous trend has gained popularity in recent months and could change the culture of marijuana use.
What is dabbing?
Dabbing allows the user to ingest a high concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Butane Hash Oil (BHO), an oil or wax-like substance extracted from the marijuana plant, is placed on a “nail” attached to a specialized glass bong called a “rig.” A blow torch is used to heat the wax, which produces a vapor that can then be inhaled. This ingestion method means the effects of dabbing can be felt instantaneously.
A practice related to dabbing includes placing hash oil in vaping devices, which look like e-cigarettes and don’t emit any smoke. This decreases opportunities to get caught using hash oil, and gives middle and high school aged youth the opportunity to get high in increasingly public places, even at school.
Popularity with inhaling hash oil is increasing because it is the fastest way to get an intense high. Smoking a tic-tac sized drop of BHO, or “hash oil,” is equivalent to two or three typical sized portions of marijuana hitting the system all at once.
In some states you can buy hash oil at medical marijuana dispensaries. Other states have black market services that deliver the hash oil right to your door. When all else fails, people can make it themselves using flammable solvents such as alcohol or butane, which can lead to explosions and serious injuries. Step-by-step instructions with pictures and videos are available online and only require a quick Google search. The ability of teens to easily access the supplies and information needed for dabbing is a cause of great concern.
Dangers of dabbing
Making hash oil may be one of the most dangerous aspects of dabbing. BHO is extracted by blasting butane, also known as lighter fluid, through the marijuana plant.
There have been increasing news reports of houses and apartment buildings exploding as a result of the extraction process, leaving individuals in need of skin grafts and reconstructive surgery for severe burns, broken bones or can even lead to death. The increase in explosions was severe enough for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to issue a special warning about the dangers of manufacturing hash oil. As of November 2014, the Los Angeles Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed 49 explosions nationwide related to marijuana extraction. In addition, contaminants in the hash oil, including butane and other neurotoxins, can lead to serious allergic reactions and even poisonings.
Dabbing comes with a slew of negative side effects, including a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, feeling like something is crawling under the skin, loss of consciousness and psychotic symptoms, including paranoia and hallucinations.
As this trend grows, more YouTube videos are being uploaded by teens chronicling their dabbing experiences. These videos showcase teens dabbing for the first time or experimenting with higher and higher doses trying to outdo their peers on the Internet. Many of these videos feature the individuals falling out of chairs, unable to move on their own and pleading with their friends to call for medical assistance.
What we still don’t know about dabbing
Most research on marijuana has been conducted with much lower concentrations of THC than what is found in BHO. Research already shows that smoking marijuana is harmful for teens. While a typical marijuana joint has 15 percent THC, reports suggest that hash oils can have THC concentration levels as high as 60-90 percent.
We do know that marijuana can be addictive, especially for those who begin experimenting at younger ages. A preliminary study found that people who report daily use of marijuana and occasional dabbing have a harder time cutting back or quitting, need to use more of the substance to get the same effect and find it difficult to switch back to smoking marijuana with lower THC concentrations.
As more states legalize medical or recreational marijuana, it appears likely that dabbing will become more widespread among teens. It is important that parents understand the dangers and know the warning signs so they can intervene if needed.
Tiffany John, LMSW
Tiffany John is a Research Associate at CASAColumbia