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Is Dabbing Dangerous

Last Updated: September 13, 2022By Jason Levin

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?

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.

The History of Dabbing

Dabbing is a relatively new variation on the cannabis trend. Even though cannabis concentrates in different forms have existed since the first century, it was not until relatively recently that refined concentrates, or dabs, became so popular with cannabis enthusiasts.

The invention of these contemporary concentrates dates back to the mid-1940s. However, dabs were known by various other names and gained long-term popularity throughout the 1970s.

Concentrates like tinctures have been around for quite a while. Following hash, tinctures are the second oldest kind of cannabis concentrate.

However, these types of concentrates are more commonly used as medical treatments.

In 2005, Cannabis Culture (final print issue was in 2009) hosted an article about a Canadian man who describes working with a colleague in the early '90s to create an amber like substance by using a series of refinements involving alcohol. The group conducted their study and refined their findings to produce a product that was launched on the shelves of Da Kine dispensary in 2003. This product launch was the true beginning of dabbing as we know it today.

Related: How To Make Strong Cannabis Oil

Dabbing Vs. Smoking Weed

When it comes to smoking weed, there are a few different ways to smoke traditional weed plants. You can smoke it out of a joint, a blunt, a bong, or a bowl. But when it comes to dabbing marijuana, there is only one way to do it, and that is with a dab rig.

A dab rig looks like a science experiment kit. However, it is essentially a small water pipe that is used specifically for dabbing marijuana. It has a smaller bowl than most bongs and pipes, and it also has a curved neck that leads down to a small chamber filled with water. This chamber helps cool the vapor before you inhale it, and it also helps trap any harmful carcinogens.

The main difference between dabbing and smoking weed is how strong your hit is and how quickly you feel its effects. Besides that, you don't even smoke the two substances in the same manner.

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How Does Dabbing Work?

Dabbing is when you put a small amount of THC oil on a hot surface and inhale the vapor it makes. You need to use a special dab rig to do it. Dabbing is when you use a dab rig to inhale the vapor produced from putting cannabis concentrates on a hot surface. The THC in the concentrate vaporizes, and then you inhale it into your lungs.

The Benefits of Dabbing

When it comes to cannabis concentrates, dabbing is one of the most popular consumption methods. And for a good reason – dabbing offers a wealth of benefits that can't be found with other consumption methods. Here are just a few of the many benefits of dabbing.

Dabbing is incredibly potent and efficient.

Dabbing is one of the most powerful and efficient methods of cannabis consumption. When you dab, you are consuming all of the cannabinoids in the concentrate, which means you get a much stronger high than you would from smoking the flower.

Dabbing is also incredibly efficient. A little bit of the dab concentrate goes a long way and will last much longer than smoking flower. This means that you won't have to consume as much cannabis to get the desired effects.

Dabbing is perfect for those who want to avoid smoking plant material.

Dabbing is perfect for those who want to avoid smoking plant material. When you dab, you consume all of the cannabinoids in the concentrate. Dabbing is also incredibly efficient. A little bit of the dab concentrate goes a long way and will last much longer than if you were smoking bud. This high concentration level means that you won't have to consume as much cannabis to get the desired effects.

Dabbing is excellent for speedy results.

Dabbing allows you to feel the high much faster than smoking. In fact, you'll feel the full effect in as little as thirty minutes. And unlike edibles, which can take up to two hours before you feel the full effects, dabbing brings you to your peak high almost immediately.

Related: Step by Step: Simple Delicious Weed Gummies

Dabbing has a higher THC content than other forms of cannabis.

The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content in concentrates is much higher than in the flower.

Can You Overdose on Dabbing?

While it is possible to overdose on dabbing, it is not easy. To overdose on dabbing, you would have to consume an absurd amount of concentrate. And even then, the odds of dying from an overdose are slim.

That being said, there are some risks associated with dabbing that you should be aware of. Dabbing can be a bit more intense than other forms of cannabis consumption, and it can also lead to faster tolerance build-up. So if you're new to dabbing, start with small doses and go slow.

Dabs, Shatters, and Wax: What's the difference?

When it comes to cannabis concentrates, there are three main types that you need to know about – dabs, shatters, and wax. While they all share some similarities, there are also some critical differences between them. Here is a breakdown of each type:

Dabs

Dabs are the most popular type of cannabis concentrate, and they come in two main forms – shatter and wax. Dabs are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids from cannabis flowers using a solvent like butane or CO2, and the extract is then heated and turned into a vapor that can be inhaled.

Shatter

Shatter is another popular type of cannabis concentrates. It is made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids from cannabis flowers using a solvent like butane or CO2. The extract is then heated and turned into a vapor that can be inhaled. Shatter is a translucent glass-like substance that is very potent. 

Wax

Wax is another type of cannabis concentrate, and the extract is then heated and turned into a wax-like substance. Wax is less potent than shatter, but it is still a very concentrated form of cannabis.

Dabbing and Dangers that come with it

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."

Related: Am I Too High? How To Sober Up from Weed

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.

Related: How to Get Really High From Smoking Weed

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.

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