What You Need to Know About Dabbing
John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
When people hear the term “dabbing,” they might initially think of the dance move that is believed to have originated in the Atlanta rap scene and was later popularized by football star, Cam Newton, who made “the dab” his signature touchdown celebration. But the word dabbing also has a darker side.
In marijuana culture, dabbing refers to the dangerous process of consuming high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. And yet despite the dangers associated with the practice, it is growing in popularity, especially among teens.
What Are Dabs?
Dabs—also referred to as wax, shatter, amber, honeycomb, or budder—are concentrated versions of butane hash oil (BHO) which contains highly-concentrated levels of THC. This concentrated substance is produced through a chemical process using butane oil to extract the oils from the cannabis.
Research suggests that dabs or BHO can have a THC concentration of 80% in comparison to traditional cannabis, which has a concentration of about 10-15% THC. In fact, at a minimum dabs are as much as four times as strong as a joint. Plus, people who dab experience an intense high all at once rather than it gradually building over time.
Dabs are made by pouring butane over marijuana. This process allows the THC to leave the marijuana plant and dissolve into the butane leaving a gummy, somewhat solid product that contains high amounts of THC.
How Dabbing Works
Although marijuana is usually consumed by smoking joints and sometimes through vape pens, dabs are heated to an extremely high temperature and then inhaled. A specifically-designed glass bong commonly called an “oil rig” is used.
The dab is placed on an attached “nail” and a blow torch is used to heat the wax, which produces a vapor that can be inhaled. This type of ingestion means the effects of dabbing are felt immediately.
Many times people will dab by placing hash oil in vaping devices. Teens especially, use this method because it allows them to use hash oil with a very low chance that they will be caught because there is no smoke or distinct smell. Consequently, they often dab in public places, including at school.
Although the process of dabbing is not new, it is growing in popularity in the United States. Scientists attribute this growth to the commercial production of medical marijuana and the legalization of it in numerous states. Both of these factors have led to an increase in instructional videos online as well as a greater social media presence. Consequently, it is becoming more and more popular.
Why Dabbing Is Dangerous
Although some people believe that dabbing is a safer method of ingesting cannabis because it is so highly concentrated and the user only has to take one hit to get high, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply put, there is no safe level of drug use. Any drug—regardless of its purpose—carries some risk. And, dabs are no exception.
Dabbing Is Not the Same as Smoking
In fact, one study found that dabbing can lead to higher tolerance and worse withdrawal symptoms. What’s more, it is dangerous for users to assume that dabbing carries the same risks as smoking marijuana. Instead, most researchers say that dabbing is to marijuana what crack is to cocaine. There is simply no comparison between dabbing and smoking joints.
Harmful Side Effects
Dabbing also includes a number of dangerous side effects like a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, crawling sensations on the skin, loss of consciousness, and psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at Portland State University, found that dabbing also may expose users to elevated levels of toxins including carcinogenic compounds. What the scientists found is that the higher the temperature the substance is exposed to, the more carcinogens, toxins, and potential irritants that are produced.
This fact, in turn, puts users at a greater risk than other methods of getting high because there is a challenge in controlling the nail temperature. As a result, people who dab are being exposed to harmful chemicals including methacrolein and benzene. Likewise, another study found that more than 80% of marijuana extracts are contaminated with poisonous solvents and pesticides.
Dangers of Production
Another danger with dabbing is the fact that making hash oil is one of the riskiest aspects of dabbing. Keep in mind that dabs are made by blasting butane (or lighter fluid) through the marijuana plant. It is highly flammable and unstable. So, adding heat to a substance like this is extremely dangerous.
What’s more, after the process has been completed, any remaining butane is now in the form of gas in the room. As a result, the smallest spark—even one produced by static electricity—can cause an explosion. The risks are similar to that of a meth lab.
Consequently, there have been increasing reports of houses, apartment buildings, and other structures exploding during the extraction process. When this happens, the people involved are either killed or become burn victims with broken bones who need skin grafts and reconstructive surgery.
A Word From Verywell
The bottom line is that dabbing is a potentially dangerous process that comes with real risks to a person’s health and overall well-being. It also is very appealing to teens and young adults.
For this reason, parents and educators need to talk to young people about the risks associated with dabbing while stressing that just one hit can not only put them at risk for lifelong addiction but also can kill them if they take in too much.
Dabbing releases dangerous levels of THC into the body producing an extreme high, but the process is very dangerous. Find out why.
How long does a weed high last?
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- The science behind how long a high lasts: everyone is different
- How long does a marijuana high last?
- What does being high feel like?
- How much weed does it take to get high?
- How you feel vs. the weed in your system
- How to bring down your high?
- How to increase the length of your high
Cannabis serves a wide variety of purposes in the modern world, with new medicinal uses and products appearing every day. But for the majority of marijuana users who come to the plant recreationally, the goal is still to experience the cannabis high.
Marijuana highs can facilitate a wide variety of sensory and psychological effects, including mild reverie, euphoria, increased sensory awareness, and some therapeutic benefits. But if you’re a new or less experienced user, you’d want to know: How long does a high last? What duration are you committing to when you smoke a bowl, eat an edible, or take a dab?
Marijuana highs can facilitate a wide variety of sensory and psychological effects, including mild reverie, euphoria, increased sensory awareness, and some therapeutic benefits. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The science behind how long a high lasts: everyone is different
Much of your reaction to cannabis, whether it be therapeutic or the duration of the high it produces, will depend on your own biological makeup. Different types or strains of cannabis can produce different effects. One variety may produce a more intense high, or one that lasts longer than another. But the same plant can also produce different effects in others.
Out bodies interact with cannabis by way of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — the series of receptors, lipids, and enzymes that help the body maintain internal balance and regulate several bodily functions. When cannabinoids, compounds indigenous to the cannabis plant such as THC and cannabidiol (CBD) , interact with the body, they produce an effect by binding to cannabinoid receptors, where they are then broken down by enzymes. Our cannabinoid receptors have genetic variations from person to person, which in turn can alter the effects of cannabis , including the duration of intoxication.
How long does a marijuana high last?
So, how long does weed last? There are several factors that determine the answer to this question, but the primary driver on the cannabis high duration is the method of cannabis consumption. Your own biological makeup, along with the chemical makeup of the cannabis you’re ingesting, will also determine how long a cannabis high and potential side effects will last. That being said, the rate of THC blood saturation through to the eventual expungement of THC from the body provides a general window of duration in most people, which varies depending on how cannabis is being ingested.
When smoking cannabis, the onset of the high is nearly immediate and THC levels peak within the first 30 minutes to an hour after inhalation. The high from smoked marijuana can last up to several hours, though the intensity will generally decrease after the first hour or so.
Cannabis edibles are a whole different story. As edibles are absorbed through the digestive system and THC is metabolized through the liver, it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours for the onset of effects. Depending on the amount of THC consumed, the amount of time an edible high can last upwards of 9 hours, with the peak generally lasting from 1 to 3 hours.
When dabbing concentrates , the onset of effects is also nearly immediate, but the duration depends largely on individual tolerance. Those who dab high-THC concentrates often may feel the effects wearing off within 1 to 2 hours, while someone entirely new to dabbing may be wiped out for the day.
When dabbing concentrates, the onset of effects is also nearly immediate, but the duration depends largely on individual tolerance. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
What does being high feel like?
The specific qualities of a cannabis high will change over time, regardless of the form you take. Similarly to how long a weed high will last, you can expect the specific qualities of a high to change from person to person, and from cultivar to cultivar. Most cannabis cultivars bring with them a general list of qualities that most people experience from them, from hunger to cerebral stimulation, or creativity to couch lock.
Some cultivars will quash anxiety, while others will increase anxiety. As the high wears down, the more euphoric aspects typically wane and sleepiness replaces them. Again, all of these effects depend on the chemical makeup of a given cultivar, as well as your genes.
How much weed does it take to get high?
The amount of weed needed to feel high also depends on several variables. THC is the intoxicating component of cannabis, and though other cannabinoids play a role in either contributing to or enhancing the cannabis high, the THC percentage of a cannabis product will impact how long you’ll be high when you consume it. However, the method of consumption is an even bigger determining factor. For example, the effects of eating a 50 milligram edible will last longer than smoking a 0.5 gram joint with 20% THC.
THC percentages don’t tell the whole story, but they do provide a general idea of what a user should expect with flower or concentrate products. In the case of edibles, instead of THC percentage, the key factor to potency is the quantity of THC in the product, which is typically measured in milligrams.
How you feel vs. the weed in your system
How long you stay high and how long weed stays in your system are two very different things. As drug tests are looking for THC metabolites, it can take upwards of a month for the compounds to completely leave your system, depending on body mass index (BMI), metabolism, frequency of use, the potency of the product, and genetics.
How to bring down your high?
If you’re experiencing a particularly intense high, it’s important to remember that it shall pass, and cannabis is non-toxic. No deaths from a marijuana overdose have ever been reported. For those who want or need to come down from a particularly intense high as quickly as possible, there are several tactics that may prove effective, such as taking very deep breaths, ingesting black pepper , hydrating, taking a cold shower , and consuming CBD oil , which may be able to counteract the intoxicating effects of THC by way of the entourage effect.
How to increase the length of your high
The higher the amount of THC, the less cannabis needed to achieve a high. If you want to know how to increase the length of your high , you can either smoke weed again, opt for the longer-lasting intoxicating effects of an edible, or consume cannabis products with higher levels of THC.
How long does a weed high last? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents The science behind how long a high lasts: everyone is different How long does