Traditional consumption of marijuana has typically been via hand-rolled cigarettes, water pipes, emptied cigars and edible products. However, a new way to administer marijuana has emerged called dabbing. Since some myths and misconceptions have emerged about dabbing, it’s important to know the facts, pros, and cons. Whether you are just curious about dabbing or interested in its use for medical administration, here are the basics of what dabbing is.

The Basics of Dabbing

To dab means to consume highly concentrated marijuana in a vaporized form from cannabis oil, a wax-like oil extracted from marijuana plants using butane. By inhaling the vapors in this concentrated form, users receive stronger and faster effects from the marijuana. A blowtorch is used to preheat the surface, often referred to as a nail, which is commonly made of glass or titanium materials. Once that nail is heated, users dab the concentrated wax onto the surface and inhale the rising vapor. Another practice similar to dabbing involves putting hash oil in a vape device or e-cigarette. Users can also use modified water pipes to smoke the dab.

Dabbing Statistics

“We have been seeing an emergence of dabs over the last three years,” said John Stogner, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who co-authored a paper on the subject. He added, “At a minimum, dabs are four times as strong as a joint, and the high is administered all at once.”

Most marijuana joints have about 15 percent THC, while most hash oils have a concentration of 60 to 90 percent. In November 2014, the Los Angeles Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported 49 explosions related to marijuana administration processes like dabbing.

Pros of Dabbing

Proponents of dabbing tout the process for its quick results and its pure, highly concentrated end product. Dabbing reduces the risk of lung damage associated with traditional smoking. Also, dabbing can be an efficient means of delivering relief for pain and serious chronic medical conditions. Certain methods of dabbing do not emit a marijuana odor, unlike smoking, which emits a strong smell; this mostly odorless result is a benefit for users who value discretion.

Cons of Dabbing

If the oil used in dabbing is not produced with very high standards, there can be high levels of butane which can be damaging. Some people are allergic to butane and other toxins contained in hash oil. Others experience side effects from dabbing, including rapid heartbeat, loss of consciousness, tingling skin sensations, paranoia and hallucinations. Dabbing is generally a more expensive way to use marijuana, as users need to make investments for a blowtorch, heating element, other equipment and the premium oil product. Dabbing is not recommended for people who need a high CBD product because most ‘wax’ products created for the process are high in THC.

How Shatter, Wax and Dabs Are Made

To make a dab, producers pour butane over marijuana to separate the THC from the plant and dissolve it into the butane. Then users must press the THC solution through a filter and place it in a dish. The resulting product is thick, gummy and very high in THC. The sticky oils are often referred to as wax, shatter and budder. After extracting the THC, the concentrate must be purged of solvents left behind.

Dabs can be made with extraction methods involving carbon dioxide and ice water alternatives as well. For example, carbon dioxide can be used as a solvent in place of butane. Experts have shown that making dabs with carbon dioxide is much healthier to make dabs, shatter, and wax. Similarly, ice-water extraction is much safer and healthier than using butane to make dabs, though they are far less common.

Potential Benefits of Dabbing Medical Marijuana

Dabbing has the potential to provide immediate relief for medical marijuana users suffering from chronic pain and other serious conditions. Other forms of use take longer to have an effect in the human body.

People who are concerned about the effects of dabbing often cite the real possibility of overdosing on marijuana, becoming addicted to marijuana and experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms. However, these issues are a lesser cause of concern for medical marijuana users. Medical marijuana is typically prescribed in exact doses by an experienced medical professional, so the risk of overdose and addiction are less likely. If regulated and medically administered, wax can be extracted in a pure form and with a reduced risk of unwanted additives.

Potential Downsides of Dabbing Medical Marijuana

However, there are some potential negative effects that can result from dabbing medical marijuana. One issue is building up a tolerance to the components. Due to the high concentration of THC in a dab, a user’s body will become used to that level of THC and require it again to get a similar feeling of relief. Therefore, it has been recommended that dabbing should not be used for people who take cannabis on an infrequent basis. Also, it is easier for people to over consume THC by dabbing because of the high concentrations being delivered quickly.

Social Popularity and Medical Administration

Dabbing is not a new practice, and in fact, it’s been around since the 1970s. Many experts attribute its growing popularity to the commercial production and development of legal medical marijuana and marijuana legalization in some states. In these states, users can often buy hash oil extracts.

At this point, not enough conclusive studies have been conducted about the risks and benefits of dabbing for medical administration. Medical marijuana users should consult with their doctors before dabbling in dabbing.