Get FREE Shipping on orders over $99

Is Dabbing Dangerous?

Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended solely for informational and entertainment purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

As more and more of the US legalises cannabis use, consumers are opening their minds to new methods for consuming the psychoactive plant.

Gone are the days when eating an edible or smoking a dime bag of top-shelf buds marked the end of cannabis receptors’ journeys (at least in the brain), as consuming cannabis concentrates through a technique known as ‘dabbing’ now owns that title. The thing is, dabbing does not appear to be as peachy as it sounds.

As it turns out, there might actually be some pretty serious health risks associated with the technique. But how can we separate fact from fiction when it comes to dabs? This primer will explain what exactly dabbing is, how it works and, finally, its health effects, so stick around and learn everything you ever wanted (and didn’t want) to know about dabbing cannabis concentrates and their health effects! What is dabbing? Dabbing refers to the act of puffing cannabis concentrates.

Cannabis concentrates consist of the cannabinoid- and terpene-rich smokable part of the plant, stripped of its water and carbohydrate parts.

Therefore, they contain much higher concentrations of psychoactive compounds than a standard joint or bong hit, with dabs, in particular, capable of containing as much as 90 per cent THC.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dabbing involves vaporizing highly concentrated cannabis, known for higher THC levels than traditional methods, potentially leading to stronger effects.

  • Health risks from dabbing can include both physical symptoms like increased heart rate and psychological effects such as anxiety and paranoia, with additional dangers in the production and consumption process.

  • Long-term health effects of dabbing remain under-researched, but concerns include potential lung damage from inhaling chemical compounds at high temperatures.

What is Dabbing?

In short, to ‘dab’ is to vaporise and inhale highly concentrated cannabis concentrates, often called ‘wax’, ‘dabs’, ‘shatter’ or ‘honey’.

The intent in dabbing is to get high (as they say in stoner-speak) by consuming the plant in a short period of time and with a much greater psychoactive effect. Dabbers also assert that concentrates are a purer form of consumption than a dry, unprocessed herb such as a joint, because cannabis concentrates reject all plant material to oftentimes preserve only the desirable chemicals.

The chemical compounds unique to the cannabis plant are called cannabinoids. There are other chemical components of the cannabis plant that are not cannabinoids.

However, the most common and, arguably, the most well-known, are the three major psychoactive cannabinoids of the plant – THC, THCA and CBD. THC is the most psychoactive compound and the primary psychoactive cannabinoid. CBD is the second most psychoactive compound; however, CBD is deemed non-psychoactive.

There are also several other cannabinoids that contain a range of psychoactive and non-psychoactive chemicals, such as THCV and CBG. Just a few decades ago, in the 1970s and ’80s, regular, dried marijuana flower was no more than 5 per cent THC, but today’s typical weed averages between 15 and 25 per cent, depending on the growing and genetic selection techniques.

By comparison, cannabis concentrates can contain anywhere between 80 to 92 per cent THC.

This is why dabbing is much stronger when compared with joint or bong-smoking: a single dab hit could have the same effect for the smoker as anywhere from smoking four to five joints from greenery.

How Dabbing Works

To understand how dabbing works, we should first look at what cannabis concentrates are and how they are made. A cannabis concentrate is any product that is created by collecting trichomes from a cannabis plant flower – the trichomes being the crystalline, sticky little hairs on the surface of the cannabis flower.

The trichomes are the most valued part of the cannabis plant because that’s where all of its cannabinoids are stored.

More than just cannabinoids, these trichomes are covered in other aromatic compounds called terpenes, which vary between strains, resulting in a different aroma, taste and psychophysical effects. Making concentrates can be achieved in two ways:

  • Solvent-based extraction: This method uses a solvent such as butane, propane, or carbon dioxide to dissolve the trichomes and extract them. Examples of solvent-based concentrates include Butane Hash Oil (BHO), Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), and CO2 wax.
  • Non-solvent extraction: This method physically separates the trichomes from the plant material. Examples include kief, rosin, dry sift, ice water hash, and bubble hash.

Once the cannabis concentrate is ready, the consumer vaporizes it using dabbing equipment or paraphernalia. This equipment may include heated knives or specialized dabbing equipment such as dab pens or dab rigs. The concentrate, once heated, produces vapors that the consumer inhales to feel its effects.

What is a Dab Pen?

DIY dab pens (also called a wax pen) consist of 5 main pieces, the components to the dab pen are as follows: The cartridge in which concentrate is placed, sensor, atomizer, mouth piece and battery.

The user uses the battery and mouthpiece to atomise cannabis concentrate for inhalation of vapor. A less executed technical but functional way to describe how a pen works is, the battery allows concentrate to flow from the cartridge to the atomizer containing a heating element which heats concentrate to a certain temperature and allows for vapor to be created for the user to inhale through the mouthpiece.

Dabbing Side Effects

Because of dabbing, there’s no shortage of side effects. Yet, considering how they’re made and what they’re actually laced with, some could be far more severe than the side effects from other forms of cannabis.

Generally, health professionals have segregated the side effects of dabbing into the ‘physical’ and the ‘psychological’, and we’ll go over them both here to help you be informed.

Physical Symptoms

Common physical symptoms of dabbing may include:

  • Sedation
  • Strong and spontaneous body sensations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Vasodilation
  • Bronchodilation

Psychological Symptoms

Common psychological symptoms of dabbing include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anhedonia
  • Euphoria
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization and Derealization
  • Extreme Paranoia
  • Psychosis.
  • Blackouts
  • Visual and Auditory Hallucinations

Note that a dab user may not experience all of these side effects at once or all the time; some effects such as insomnia are highly dose-dependent, whereas others such as hallucinations and psychosis more frequently occur in those at risk of disorders such as schizophrenia.

Dangers of Dabbing Wax

Broadly speaking, there are three major types of dangers associated with dabbing wax:

  • Health Effects: These include the side effects mentioned above. Although cannabis is not physically addictive the same way other drugs like alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepines are, it can nonetheless lead to psychological dependence. This mental addiction is especially prevalent in those prone to substance abuse disorders.
  • Manufacture and Production: Butane is a highly volatile and explosive chemical that can cause devastating explosions from even a tiny spark. There are many documented instances of individuals accidentally blowing up their houses from butane explosions during the BHO concentrate manufacturing process. Even the best-case scenario in such situations leads to severe third-degree burns.
  • Consumption and Use: Finally, the process of dabbing itself can be dangerous. Dab rigs utilize glass water pipes which the users have to heat with blow torches at high temperatures. The user may sustain accidental burns in the process or inhale harmful gasses. This risk is even more concerning given most users’ impaired physical and mental state as they dab, which may lead to safety negligence.

Long Term Health Effects of Dabbing

There hasn’t been any definitive research yet on the long-term effects of dabbing on health, and lung damage due to excessive dabbing is purely circumstantial (or as I like to say, ‘totally anecdotal’).

But with so many scorpion tails floating around, it doesn’t take much to assume that some devout devotees of the latest wave are truly damaging their pipes with too much dabbing. And if not the dabbing per se, lung damage is probably caused by the sheer extreme temperature that rises during the process of heating the chemical compounds infused in solvent-based concentrates.

It’s common for long-term dab rig users to complain of rips and sharp pains in the chest area; it’s a pretty common occurrence to see an acute coughing fit with dabs and, more often than not, the expelled substance is a thick and tar-like mucus. It is indeed possible that this is all linked to the process of dabbing.

Portland State University scientists have reported on how dabbing may have some overall health effect on people who do it over the long term, many of whom inhale toxic chemical compounds along with the dabbing process.

In this 2017 study, the PSU authors published a study suggesting that dabbing might have some harmful health effects from oxidative stress and the proliferation of reactive oxygen molecules in the bloodstream.

Is Dabbing Dangerous?

While it remains to be seen whether dabbing is dangerous in the broader sense, the health road results for dabbing, so far, are decidedly bleak: the high, too, isn’t to be trifled with – some even label dabs the ‘crack of weed’, and for good reason; tolerance to cannabis and a resultant psychological dependence may follow.

If you’re bent on dabbing, use harm reduction practices One way to lower your harm is to stick with cannabis concentrates that are free of solvents.

These solventless cannabis concentrates, such as rosin or kief products, have been made using from natural processes and do not include hazardous chemicals, bearing less risk than concentrates derived from solvents.

Ultimately, to dab or not to dab, the choice is yours. As the saying goes: let the buyer beware.

Links to sources used in this article:

Note: This article is provided by Botany Farms for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The content is intended to offer insights into the practice of dabbing and the use of cannabis concentrates, reflecting current knowledge and research within these areas. It is not aimed at diagnosing, treating, curing, or preventing any diseases or health conditions. As the legal status of cannabis varies across different regions, it is the responsibility of the reader to be informed about their local laws regarding cannabis use. Botany Farms advises all readers to consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions about cannabis consumption to understand fully the potential risks and benefits. Botany Farms and the authors of this content disclaim all liability for any adverse effects that may arise from the use of information provided in this article.

Shop the Botany FARms Collection

Botany Farms General Disclaimer:

The content provided on Botany Farms’ website, including blog posts and articles, is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

While we source our information from credible academic studies and trusted sources, we encourage our readers to conduct their own research and consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice. The legality of cannabinoids varies by state and is subject to change. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify the current legal status of cannabinoids in their state or jurisdiction.

Botany Farms does not assume any liability for inaccuracies or misstatements about products or information provided on our site. The use of our site and reliance on any information provided are solely at your own risk.

For further information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Before you go

Receive 15% Off your First Order!