A dab typically refers to ‘smoking dabs’ which is a dose of concentrated cannabis often inhaled through a dab rig or vaporizer. Many were, and still are, wary of the potent THC doses concentrates deliver.
If you don’t mind the initial cost and the expertise needed to get started, then a world of euphoric ecstasy awaits. The growing popularity of vaporising concentrates is mostly to do with their purity, achieved through sophisticated extraction processes. Regular cannabis flower measures anywhere between 10–25% THC, whereas cannabis concentrates can be a mind-blowing 40–80% THC—this is an incredible amount of bang for your buck and your mind.
“The number one reason amongst users of dabs of why they prefer to regular marijuana inhalation is because it gives them a faster more intense euphoria or ‘high,'” Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist, gastroenterologist, and adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College, tells Bustle. “It carries the same risks as smoking, only more pronounced, and the effects can happen quicker.”
To keep yourself out of the danger zone, avoid these simple pitfalls when dabbing with cannabis concentrates:
The High Is Extremely Powerful
To give you a sense of how strong dabs are, two nicknames for dabs are “shatter” and “pot on steroids.” Dr. Dustin Sulak, a licensed osteopathic physician in Maine who legally dispenses marijuana, 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.
Using Low Grade Titanium
Whenever I hear my dabber friends mention a new deal they got on a dabbing nail or dab tool, I immediately become concerned. Generally, most retailers are trying to do their best to get you safe products, but the industry is still immature.
As a result, you still may not know exactly what you are getting when you buy a new titanium nail from your local head shop. Ideally, it is a grade 2 titanium nail, although, don’t always expect the closest bargain headshop to be stocking the most premium of elemental metals. You may find grade 5 (the most common grade of titanium) or lower in bulk orders shipped from overseas. Here, you run the risk of exposing yourself to dangerous fumes when heating your titanium, which is definitely something you don’t want to inhale along with your THC.
It May Increase Your Tolerance To Marijuana
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.
“This is because the cannabinoid receptors are saturated by the increased concentrations and thus your next intake will be more difficult to achieve the same high,” Dr. Sonpal says. “In other words, patients will need large amounts to feel any high at all and, even worse, they may fail to get high from herbal cannabis at all after your body gets used to dabs.”
Buying Low Quality Concentrates
There is a risk even when purchasing an organic concentrate product from the cannabis industry. Most growers are doing their best to only provide consumers with pure products that are free from any harmful outside factors, however, as recently as February, we were reminded that cannabis can possibly be lethal when not cared for properly. This particular case was caused by untreated fungus growing on a cannabis plant. The consumers were already in a compromised state of health, but it is without a doubt that the contaminated cannabis contributed to one of their premature deaths.
Since dabbing is concentrated cannabis, these factors can be multiplied. Depending on the growing procedures and extraction methods, any leftover pesticides or unwanted particles are concentrated within the oil. Immediately, the risks for consuming contaminants and anything that you would rather not inhale is increased. Look for concentrates with certified testing and stay away from bargain basement extractions. There is often a good reason (read: bad reason) why they are so cheap.
You Might Experience Side Effects
You might also experience more of the potential side effects that come with THC and frequently getting high.
“Paranoia, psychosis, anxiety, and hallucinations are well-known side effects of inhaling weed,” Dr. Sonpal says. “Symptoms of vomiting can also occur and I have seen patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). It can occur with chronic marijuana use, and more specifically, after someone has quit. However, with dabs I have had patients who develop the withdrawal-like symptoms of CHS only after a short exposure.
Being Careless with Your Blowtorch
Torch and nail safety should go without mentioning here. However, due to cannabis consumers’ propensity for altered states of mind, a perfectly safe heating element can turn into a butane fueled fire starter. Torches and nails, without the proper attention, can cause serious bodily harm. From burns to outright property damage, the destruction blowtorches can cause cannot be understated.
This can be easily remedied with the right approach and a set of rules to keep you safe. Of course, keep your torch flowing into open space and never in the vicinity of flammable objects and the heated nail should always point away from you. Aside from these obvious points, be wary of how you move your torch and glass around after you consume. I personally have several steps I take so the 1000+ degree objects have a safe space before AND after a dab. This can be the difference between some icky water spilling over your carpet, or your home up in flames.
You Could Severely Burn Yourself During The Extraction Process
The extraction process requires everyday folks to use butane, which is a highly volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous gas. A 2015 study about the health risks of dabbing published in the journal Pediatrics, found that it’s all too easy to obtain severe burns and injuries in the creation process. Butane can heat up the metal or glass used to extract THC so high that any body parts that come into contact with the materials can be burned in the blink of an eye.
“This can lead to other concerns besides the increased THC exposure, namely intense burns and even fires,” Dr. Sonpal says.
Avoiding the four hazards outlined above will make you a much safer cannabis consumer and keep you healthier overall as you medicate with concentrates. Dabbing is a much more volatile form of cannabis without a doubt. Its health risks have not fully been studied in the long term and a blowtorch is often involved, but with these simples steps you can keep yourself from some serious risks that are completely avoidable with the right knowledge.
“When it comes to dabs, it is just simply too hard to moderate as the concentrations are very very high.” Moderation and safety is key, Dr. Sonpal says, which is sound advice no matter the activity.