6 Health Risks Of Doing Dabs You Should Know

Other than the traditional act of smoking marijuana, these days you can vape, bake edibles, and use topicals and tonics. You can even use cannabis body lotion and chapstick. But not all methods of getting stoned are as good as others. In fact, there are some that might be outright dangerous. Ever heard of dabbing? If you're a marijuana aficionado and you don't know what dabbing is, you might want to listen up, because there are health risks to doing dabs that go beyond other forms of marijuana use.

Dabs are highly concentrated doses of cannabis, and they're often made at home by everyday weed enthusiasts. You create dabs by placing marijuana trimmings into a glass or metal pipe and blasting them with butane to extract THC from the plant. The result is a thick, sticky substance that resembles hardened candle wax; a nasty, brownish-green kind of candle wax, that is. This substance, also called butane hash oil (BHO), is then smoked using a bong or pipe, giving such a potent high that is said to be like the very first time you ever got stoned. Although this particular use of marijuana isn't new to the world, it has been gaining momentum over the last couple years, particularly with the younger experimental crowd who's looking for stronger and stronger ways to get stoned. Experts are coming forward, however, to urge caution when creating and using dabs, as there are some dangers that come along with it.

Here are six health risks of doing dabs you need to know.

1. You Could Severely Burn Yourself During The Extraction Process

The extraction process is what experts are particularly nervous about, because it requires everyday folks to use butane, which is a highly volatile, unpredictably dangerous gas. John Stogner, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, led a study about the health risks of dabbing that was published in Pediatrics, and he says that it's all too easy to obtain severe burns and injuries in the creation process. Butane can heat up the metal or glass you're using to extract THC so high that any body parts that come into contact with the materials can be injured in the blink of an eye, particularly if you're already high while doing it.

There are numerous videos and instruction guides online where people give step-by-step directions on how to use the butane to extract THC out of the marijuana. This is worrisome, though, because these folks aren't experienced scientists who can safely walk us through the process of making dabs. Rather, they're amateurs who may not be quite sure what they're doing themselves. Even if you take their advice, all it takes is one wrong move for the heating process to get out of control and subsequently harm yourself.

2. ... And You Could Harm Other People As Well

Not only are you subject to getting injured by using butane to turn marijuana into dabs, but you also run the risk of starting a fire that directly impacts the people around you. In November 2013, David Schultz, 33 years old, caused an explosion in his apartment building while using butane for an extraction process. As a result, seven people who lived on the premises were hospitalized and one 87-year-old woman died from injuries sustained while she was trying to escape the building. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

This wasn't a one-time freak accident, either. In the state of Colorado alone, the number of explosions related to butane use and dabs almost tripled from 2013 to 2014, rising from 12 to 32, according to USA Today. Clearly, this isn't something to be taken lightly. "Given the amount of butane that can build up during this process, these individuals should be worried about any spark from any source," Stogner said. Anyone can make the simplest of mistakes, leading to harmful explosions that are could be deadly.

3. The High Is Extremely Powerful


To give you a sense of how formidable dabs are, two nicknames for dabs are "shatter" and "pot on steroids." Stogner says dabs are four times stronger than your typical joint. Dr. Dustin Sulak, a licensed osteopathic physician in Maine who legally dispenses marijuana, similarly told Healthline, "A single inhalation of concentrate delivers the THC and other cannabinoids equivalent to three to 10 inhalations of herbal cannabis, depending on the potency." The danger lies in the fact that doing dabs slams your system with this concentrated high in one fell swoop, rather than enjoying it slowly over a prolonged period of time.

The instruction videos that are available online today show people how to make dabs, but you still have no control over how strong the concentrate will be in the end, so you could have a product on your hands that contains 95 percent THC. As you can imagine, that equals a particularly potent high, one so strong that it can even cause you to lose consciousness suddenly.

4. It May Increase Your Tolerance To Marijuana


Dr. Sulak actually thinks that the potency of dabs is more of a concern than potentially blowing up your house during the extraction process. Dabs have such a strong dose of THC, administered so suddenly, that your body becomes accustomed to high levels of THC and your tolerance increases rapidly. You'll need large amounts to feel any high at all and, even worse, you may fail to get high from herbal cannabis at all after your body gets used to dabs. You might also experience more of the potential side effects that come with THC and frequently getting high. It hasn't been widely proven yet, but using highly concentrated dabs could also cause you to suffer from intense withdrawal symptoms as well if you suddenly go from dabbing regularly to not dabbing at all.

5. You May Be Unknowingly Ingesting Other Hazardous Chemicals


The equipment you use for the extraction process may contain nasty ingredients that will eventually make their way into your system. For example, the metal in the bong utilized to make dabs could have rust and solder in it, which will inevitably end up in your BHO and into your body. Smoking these unknown chemical contaminants could cause health hazards in your future, such as respiratory issues.

6. You Actually Might Be Able To Overdose On It


This is a scary thought, considering the fact that we've previously been told that we can't overdose on pot like we can alcohol or any other substance. Before you get freaked out, know that there is a very limited amount of information on this particular topic. It's believed, though, that the concentration of THC is so powerful in BHO that the high could get you as close to overdosing as you can possibly get with marijuana. As mentioned earlier, you could potentially pass out and lose consciousness, which can lead to all sorts of complications if you don't get help in time.

The Bottom Line

Dabbing isn't a completely evil act that will only result in destruction, but because so many people who engage in the creation process don't have the proper training to use materials like butane and the high from dabbing is so high, the risks are very real. So if you're just looking for ways to get recreationally high, just remember that you have many other options of getting there besides doing dabs.

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