Drug Rehabilitation Blog

Dabs – Taking Pot to a Dangerous New Extreme

The ongoing search for a “bigger, better high” has turned marijuana into an explosive and deadly nightmare

On the heels of the regrettable new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington, a new trend has emerged that is raising alarm in state legislatures. More and more people are beginning to use hash oil concentrate. This substance – known as Wax, Honey, Shatter, or, more commonly, Dabs – began hitting the shelves of the newly legalized recreational pot dispensaries shortly after the laws were passed. And it has become popular. So popular, in fact, that the weed shops are having a tough time keeping it on the shelves.

Hash oil concentrate, which got the nickname “Dabs” because “a little dab’ll do ya”, is an extremely powerful substance that is made by distilling the essential active chemicals in marijuana that gets the user high. The draw for pot smokers is the highly concentrated levels of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, which gives the user a far more intense and longer lasting high than the traditional methods of ingestion. Normal marijuana might contain around 15%-18% THC concentration. Hash oil concentrate, on the other hand, can contain upwards of 80%-90% THC levels.

Marijuana users have long been creative in finding ways to smoke pot. From the older days of corncob pipes and rolling joints, to the hookah fad in the 70’s, to even using apples as disposable pipes, pot smokers will always find a way to use their drug. Hash oil concentrate isn’t really that new, and has already been used in edible like cookies and brownies for some time. Until fairly recently, there hasn’t really been an effective way to directly ingest hash oil concentrate other than those snacks or drinks. But now, someone has discovered a way to smoke hash oil concentrate.

Bathtub Chemistry: Why Dabs are Dangerous

The biggest problem with the production and use of dabs is found in the concentrate itself – or, more accurately, in the chemical process used to make it. Pro-marijuana advocates have tried to convince us of the “natural and healthy” benefits of smoking pot, which are debatable at best. With hash oil concentrate, the high that the user gets is miles away from natural, and the process necessary to extract it is not healthy in the least.

The production of hash oil concentrate requires the “chemist” (a term used quite loosely) to infuse the trimmings from a marijuana harvest with a hydrocarbon. The most widely used chemical for this is butane gas, which is highly flammable. After the butane-laced marijuana is put under intense pressure, a thick, goopy substance remains. But this syrupy mixture still contains butane, which must be removed. How do they remove it? By cooking it. Combining high heat and butane. What could go wrong?

All over the country, people have been destroying kitchens and basements in blasts that rival those of meth labs. Fires and explosions have been sending these bathtub chemists to emergency rooms and burn clinics at an alarmingly high rate. In Aurora, CO, where all marijuana is still illegal, four butane hash oil explosions were reported in just four months time. But, with the growing demand for this quasi-legal substance, the number of injuries and extensive property damage will be sure to rise.

Washington has already banned the manufacture and sale of this product, and Colorado is looking to regulate it. Which is a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. However, loopholes in the recreational marijuana laws do not prohibit people from attempting to make their own hash oil concentrate, which is creating a black market for dabs, even in the states where pot is legal.

Which leads to another major problem with dabs – quality control. In a specialized environment with a trained chemists and engineers, the problem of explosions might be controlled or even eliminated, but the majority of hash oil concentrate is produced in less than ideal conditions. These bathtub chemists have no ability to control the factors that would be more manageable in an actual manufacturing facility. This means that the level of THC varies from one batch to another. And if the level of that chemical varies, the level of the other chemicals involved will also vary.

Smoking dabs requires, of all things, the use of blowtorches. As if the use of butane in production was not enough, now a standard cigarette lighter won’t even cut it for smoking pot. Furthermore, if the “cook” doesn’t get all of the butane gas out of the wax, the user is putting yet another dangerous chemical into their brain, and at high levels of concentration. And that is the best-case scenario. Worst-case, the hash oil is still volatile, which may also lead to a fire or small explosion, causing more injuries and property damage. All in all, from production to use, hash oil concentrate is a highly dangerous drug. When it is all said and done, Dabs could end up being the Crystal Meth of Pot.

Dabs on the Rise

The popularity of hash oil concentrate among younger marijuana users is a big concern for health care professionals. The younger a person is when they begin to indulge, the more likely it is that they will become addicted. In the case of Dabs, the difference in the levels of THC concentration between hash oil and normal marijuana has been compared to going from a glass of beer to a glass of liquor. There have even been reports of people literally being knocked unconscious after just one hit of hash oil concentrate. At a NORML event in California, one person almost cracked their skull on a sidewalk and another broke two teeth after passing out cold from “dabbing”, according to accounts from witnesses (NORML is a pro-marijuana advocacy group).

Yet, despite the dangers of this new trend in marijuana use, people in their mid-twenties and younger are seeming to prefer hash oil and vaporization techniques as opposed to just smoking the flower of the marijuana plant. Even as pro-marijuana advocates tell us that THC and marijuana use is safe, harmless and non-addictive, dabs have shown us otherwise.

If you have any suspicions that your child, spouse or a loved one might be using this or any other dangerous and addictive chemical substance, don’t delay. Give us a call. We can help.

6 Comments

  • R

    I must say that, despite popular belief, Marijuana is a drug that is dangerous, yes it is not as addictive and nor is it’s effects as visible as heroin or cocaine or even a pharmaceutical durg, but it is still dangerous. Especially now that the THC levels are very much altered from the original plant. It has literally been altered to make it up to 60% more powerful than it was in the 60’s. So what used to be one joint is now one puff and it creates a much more intense high.
    In Colorado and Washington Marijuana is now legal and creating effects that you (meaning the general public) won’t be aware of until enough time has gone by and people can see the determent created, such driving records (while it is illegal to smoke and drive people do it more now than ever before), birth defects, THE DRIVE OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION being driven down and CREATING a dumber future generation, etc.
    On top of the alteration of the THC edibles are now being made which concentrate the manipulated THC levels even more. A kid here in Colorado was skiing and ate 5 edible gummy worms, 5!. He went on the slopes and killed himself, being unaware of his surroundings and completely high.
    Now you take the oil from the manipulated buds and make an oil – what is being done here – is no one thinking of our future??

  • Rich Pirrin

    I completely disagree with this article. Especially the part that says, “Washington has already banned the manufacture and sale of this product, and Colorado is looking to regulate it. Which is a step in the right direction, albeit a small one”. All drugs should be legal. the way to fix an addiction is not to pass a law, but to treat the individual and deal with the trauma that caused the addiction in the first place. Should we ban beer or try to legislate whiskey out of existence because people get addicted to it? As for the production of hash, you are wrong. hash is made using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). The alcohol is then allowed to evaporate. There is no need to light it on fire. Unless you are ready to smoke it. This article is just filled with misinformation.

  • Diane C

    I guess that is the problem with all addiction. I know I saw it with myself and my friends in the 60’s and 70’s. You start out with one joint and it’s fun, you get high but then you want more and more and want it to last longer and longer so you have to come up with ways in order to do that. That’s when you try other drugs or as above, other manufacturing techniques to get the better high. The hard part is that the individual thinks they are OK, until it’s too late. That is why getting them to a good rehab facility to help them get clean is the best thing you can do to help someone. I’m glad there are places out there that offer this service.

  • Amanda

    Dabs are another scary step for our society. There are always people that are looking for the next big high and trying to take it to the next level. Drugs are not things to mess with or experiment with. Drugs are so dangerous because you have no idea how you are going to react or which hit will addict you. Drugs do you give you an euphoric feeling, but it won’t last and will only be there again by taking more and more until you lose control and cannot live with out it. You are no longer in control and that is scary.

  • Walter

    Well, that is alarming. I remember when we used to smoke the resin left over and it would create this, but if there were not enough problems already. I do not understand that even if they got what they wanted (legal pot) why would they go and always try to take it one step further. I am not pro-pot by any stretch of the imagination, but this goes to show you that it is not as “safe” a drug as people think it is, because the attitude of an addict is to always take it one step further, to get a little higher. Even if the methods mentioned above are not all there, it still is just mind boggling to see that people would cook a drug in their house to make it stronger, but then again I have felt that urge for the bigger high so that just goes to show you that we need to handle the problem of why the people take the drugs. Then the drugs themselves will handle. At least that is my two cents.

  • Jonathan

    It’s rather interesting how much popularity this has gotten and how widespread it is to teenagers today. The other day, my little cousin was explaining to me what dabs were as I had never heard of them. He also seemed to be very well educated on them which was slightly frightening.

    Normally, not always, if a substance isn’t safe when making it, it isn’t the best for you to take it into your body. More people need to be educated on the procedure and how it works as well as how dangerous it is that way they might open their eyes to see more so how dangerous it is to ingest it.

    This article opens my eyes to how harmful dabs are, not only in their creation but their consumption. It puts me in a new perspective and more tools to have at hand when talking to people that do marijuana or dabs.

    When my cousin was explaining the use of dabs to me and the procedure in how it was made, it seemed as if he wasn’t aware of the effects that it could have. I will be showing him this article in hopes of that he will be careful in the future and start pulling away from doing modified or any drugs.

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