When you think about smoking weed, you probably picture someone rolling their dried marijuana into a joint or blunt. You may also think about a pipe or bong or maybe marijuana edibles. However, some people take their euphoria to higher levels by dabbing.
This new way of consuming marijuana is extremely popular, but is dabbing dangerous?
Is Dabbing Dangerous
We should start by answering the question: "what is dabbing?" This method of marijuana consumption involves inhaling marijuana vapor from THC concentrates. These concentrates can be solid or waxy, but when heated, they create a potent vapor. Because they use concentrated THC, dabs get you high much faster than merely smoking weed.
However, according to research, this rapid high may pose some significant health risks.
Is Dabbing Dangerous?
First of all, you may be inhaling more than cannabinoids. The American Chemical Society published a study entitled ACS Omega, where researchers from Portland State University found certain toxic chemicals created during the dabbing process. They came to their conclusions after heating terpenes similarly to how they're heated when dabbing.
What is this dabbing process? When dabbing, marijuana concentrate is placed on a metal rod that's connected to a glass pipe. This rod, also called a nail, is heated using a butane torch while the user inhales.
According to the ACS Omega report, some users find it hard to control the temperature of the torched nail. This may lead to benzene and methacrolein exposure. The higher the temperatures used, the more toxins were produced.
There's also blasting to worry about. Blasting is a slang term for the at-home heating process. Many researchers say blasting puts the safety of users in danger.
For example, the University of North Carolina professor, John Stogner, emailed Newsweek about his thoughts on the subject. He noted the risks that amateurs may cause fires using butane-based extractions. According to him, many severe burns, fires, and explosions have been caused by reckless at home blasting.
Stogner concluded that young cannabis users tend to find blasting appealing. However, "…the safety risks have been described as comparable to those of manufacturing methamphetamine."
6 Dabbing Health Risks to Consider
There are so many ways to enjoy cannabis, that it makes many people wonder why so many people prefer dabbing, even if it may be dangerous. What is the most common reason dabbers give for why they prefer it to traditional smoking? Dabbing provides a much more intense high, in less time.
Thankfully, many experts believe that dabbing can be enjoyed if approached cautiously and in moderation.
So, why is dabbing dangerous? What risks are the experts concerned about? Here are six potential things that could go wrong:
1. Severe Burns
Butane is nothing to play with. According to a study in the Pediatrics journal, it's really easy to obtain severe injuries and burns while dabbing. Using butane to heat dabs can cause the glass or metal nail used to extract the THC to get extremely hot.
If that nail comes in contact with any body part, such as a finger, hand, or even your face, you could be burned in an instant.
2. Explosion Risks
Users stand the chance of starting fires when using butane to heat cannabis products. One explosion in November 2013 was reportedly caused by a man extracting dabs using butane in his apartment. He was sentenced to nine years prison time.
3. Super-Powerful High
Exactly how potent are dabs? Well, two popular nicknames for them are "pot on steroids" and "shatter." One inhale of the THC concentrate can be the equivalent to 3-10 puffs of smokable marijuana. Almost instantly, the user's system is flooded with concentrated euphoria, which unfortunately is not suitable for everyone.
Note: In California, dispensaries that offer dabs provide cold water next to the dabbing station. They also encourage users to drink that cold water before leaving the facilities. Some even have couches nearby, so dabbers can sit down immediately. Dabs are that strong.
4. Increases Tolerance
Because dabbing causes an intense high incredibly quickly, it also increases your tolerance. This means if you also smoke or eat edibles, you'll need more to enjoy the same euphoria as time goes on. In some cases, dabbers no longer reach their desired high from smoking and are left with only one option: dabbing
5. Side Effects
Everything has side effects, including cannabis. But experts warn that dabbing may cause users to experience more of them than they would simply smoking pot. For example, some cannabis smokers experience hallucinations, psychosis, anxiety, and paranoia, this is more likely to happen when dabbing.
Users may experience more intense adverse reactions, but they could also end up vomiting. Those who try to quit dabbing could end up with withdrawal symptoms related to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), even if they've only been doing it for a short time.
6. Hazardous Chemicals
Sometimes the tools are the problem. Dabbing equipment may not be as clean as you think, leaving harmful ingredients that could end up in your system. Solder and rust may have formed in the metal piece. Experts believe dabbers may experience future respiratory issues and other health problems due to such chemical contaminants.
Reddit: Is Dabbing Dangerous for The Lungs Like Vaping?
If you search online for "is dabbing dangerous” Reddit will respond with plenty of answers. However, there is no clear answer. One Reddit user posted:
"Clean dabs should be better for you in theory because you're putting much less plant matter in your lungs. Also, a low temp dab is all vapor and no smoke."
And this could be true. Weed extracts contain much less actual plant material than flower, which means more cannabinoids (CBD, THC, etc…) and less combusted resin.
However, there are situations where the process could cause harm to your lungs simply because the producers want to save a few bucks. One Reddit user responded to this post with:
"Assuming it has been dewaxed. A lot of producers don't dewax because it's an extra loss of weight, and therefore money at the end of the day, but holy shit is it bad for you. Inhaling wax is seriously harmful to your lungs."
Many of the social media users suggested that often, dabs are poorly made. For that reason, vaporizing flower (instead of commercially prepared concentrates) may be the safest route.
Quick Guide to Vaping Vs. Dabbing
Both dabbing and vaping are ways for users to ingest extracts from marijuana. Because neither involves the actual process of burning flower, such as with bongs, joints, blunts, and weed pipes, they are not considered "smoking" pot.
A liquid extract of cannabis is used when puffing on a typical vape pen. Unlike smoking, vaping doesn't involve burning the extract. Instead, heat is applied, getting it just hot enough to release the terpenes, CBD and THC (found within the oils of the extracts) into a vaporous mist. These vapors are less harsh on the lungs and throat than traditional smoke.
Dabbing, on the other hand, involves heating up a nail on some sort of dabbing device. The temperatures can become extremely high as the heat burns and melts the product into a potent, thick marijuana vapor. It's then inhaled through a dabbing device that resembles a pipe or a bong.
Is There a Way to Dab Safely?
Technically, dabbing really isn't that safe. However, if you keep the temperatures low and do it in moderation, it may not be so bad. The activity itself can be a bit daunting for beginners. But once you've tried it, things tend to go a bit smoother.
When dabbing, marijuana concentrates are flash vaporized and inhaled after being placed on a heated surface. These concentrates are referred to as wax, oil, BHO, and shatter. They are much more potent than cannabis flowers. That means it takes very little to get you high.
Generally, flower tests return THC levels between 10% to 25%. However, cannabis concentrates can test between 50% to 80% THC. For those looking for non-THC effects, there are CBD non-intoxicating extracts that provide highly concentrated therapeutic effects. Yet, many find this wax hard to find.
The Safest Way to Dab
To prevent accidents while dabbing, start with the proper materials (and there's plenty to choose from.) Dabbing technology is fairly new to the legalized cannabis market. Therefore, it's continuously evolving. There are still many ways to create dap pipes and devices. But, a traditional setup includes the following items:
- Marijuana Extract – They come in various forms. The most common dabbing extracts are CO2, BHO, and rosin or other solvent-less extracts. Never use extracts that are alcohol-based when dabbing. Be sure to consult a professional, like your budtender, if you're unsure.
- Water Pipe – For a DIY method, a weed bong can serve as a pipe for dabbing. Remove the glass bowl pieces. Replace these pieces with dabbing attachments. This will transform your weed pipe into a new dab rig.
- Nail – Not just any nail will do. It needs to fit the gauge of the water pipe. Some DIY dabbers use nails made of quartz or ceramic. But the most common material used is titanium.
- Dome – This is what you call the glass hood that you place around the nail. There are also domeless nails. These don't require a globe. But if you use standard nails, the pipe will need something that traps the vapor before it gets inhaled.
- Torch – It is very dangerous to use a regular lighter to heat up your nail. Instead, you want to use a mini-torch. Or, if you want your nail to heat up fast, go with a propane-fueled torch. Either way, they need to be on the larger side to heat the nail up safely without burning yourself.
- Dabber – This is the tool used to apply the wax to the pipe. They come in ceramic, metal, or glass materials.
How Much Oil Do You Need to Dab?
THC concentrations differ from product to product. Therefore, you must know your oil's potency before using it to dab. Experts recommend that newbies start with minuscule amounts. Then, once you're comfortable, increase the doses gradually until you reach your comfort zone.
If it's your first time dabbing, use no more than a crumb-size. Even though it seems like a tiny amount, it will still contain a high amount of THC. And it will go straight to your head… immediately.
How Do You Dab?
Remember, dabbing will stimulate an immediate rush from THC that can be physically intense. It's best to take your first dab sitting down.
NOTE: Dabbing is not recommended for newbie marijuana users.
After your wax has been placed on the dabber, follow these steps for dabbing:
- Light up your torch and heat up the nail by placing the flame directly onto it. Keep the flame there until the nail starts turning red-hot.
- Turn the torch off and cover the nail with the glass dome. To ensure the temperature of the surface is not too hot, let quartz nail cool off for about 45 seconds. For titanium nails, cool them for about 10 seconds.
- Using your dabber, place the dab onto the nail while still under the dome. Slowly inhale the vapor as you rotate the tip of the dabber on the nail. This helps you get all the wax, so none goes to waste.
NOTE: Both the glass dome and the nail will get extremely hot during your dabbing session. Be cautious when handling these hot materials. Always wait for all the pieces of the pipe to cool off before touching any of them.
To Dab or Not to Dab
So, you be the judge. Is dabbing a dangerous new drug, or simply a new way to enjoy cannabis?
If you choose to dab, make sure you get your wax from a safe source. The last thing you need is to cause physical harm to your body while trying to get high. If you decide to make your own wax, be safe and start with your own homegrown cannabis as well.