As more states legalize marijuana, many Americans are growing more familiar with various methods of cannabis consumption. Smoking, vaping, and even edibles are increasingly accepted or at least understood.
But there’s one trendy cannabis practice that has a lot of people scratching their heads: dabbing.
Dabbing isn’t just a popular dance move on Tiktok! Dabbing is a method of inhaling vaporized THC that has been around for decades but is still often misunderstood. While it’s not inherently more dangerous than smoking or vaping – and may even be safer – dabbing can get a bad rap.
90% of people who have done the dab motion with their arms and head have no idea what dabbing actually is.
Like many others, you might be wondering: What exactly is dabbing, and is it safe?
In this article, we’ll explore the increasingly thriving world of dabbing: what it is, how you do it, and some of the benefits and risks involved.
What is Dabbing?
The most straightforward answer is that dabbing is just another method of consuming cannabis.
But let’s go a little deeper. Dabbing is done by dropping a small amount of concentrated cannabis oil onto a hot surface and inhaling the vapor. What sets this method apart is that the oil used contains extremely concentrated THC, delivering an immediate, very strong high.
Cannabis concentrates have been around since the 1940s, and botanical extraction has existed since the 1800s or earlier. In the past few decades, though, the technology for dabbing – and the public’s appetite for it – has grown exponentially.
How Are Dabs Produced?
Dabs are produced through various extraction processes. Usually, a chemical solvent like butane, carbon dioxide, or propane is blasted or poured over a marijuana plant. The solvent strips the THC out of the plant and dissolves it into a sticky oil, somewhat like crystalized honey.
The resulting concentrate may also be referred to as wax, shatter, amber, budder, honeycomb, butane hash oil (BHO), and others.
All these names refer to a substance that is exceptionally high in THC, with levels usually between 60 and 90%. Compare that to traditional cannabis, which has THC concentrations closer to 10-15%.
You read that right: dabs are at minimum four times stronger than a joint. So one dose of concentrate is comparable to smoking several joints all at one time.
How Does Dabbing Work?
Like smoking or vaping, dabbing involves inhaling THC for a high. However, because of the highly concentrated THC levels, dabbing has very different effects on the body and brain.
A traditional dabbing setup involves:
- The “dab rig:” a glass bong or electric dab rig explicitly designed for dabbing
- The nail: a small piece of metal or quartz that gets heated up
- The dabber: a long tool that holds the dab
- The torch: a small blowtorch to heat the nail
Traditionally, a user will drop a small amount of oil or dab from the dabber onto the nail. Then they’ll heat the nail with the torch. As the wax heats, it creates a vapor that the user inhales through the rig. Because dabs are inhaled but are so much stronger than a joint, users get an immediate, extremely potent high.
As the marijuana industry continues growing, experts are developing safer equipment for dabbing, such as electronic nails or “e-nails” that eliminate the need for an open flame.
Some users dab by putting hash oil directly into a vape. Younger users are employing this method more frequently as it can be quite discreet, producing no smoke and little odor.
What Are the Benefits of Dabbing?
A professionally produced dab is chemically cleaner than traditional cannabis. Smoking weed produces hot smoke and carcinogens that are bad for your lungs and health. Because dabs exclude plant matter, the pure vapor is better for the lungs.
Another benefit for some users is the powerful high you get. Dabbing produces an intense high immediately, and all at once, in contrast to the gentle high you get from a joint or the gradual high you get from edibles. For MMID card holders and other patients using marijuana to relieve chronic pain or nausea, dabbing can provide the most immediate relief.
For cannabis enthusiasts, dabbing has produced something of a renaissance in invention and creativity in the cannabis world. Companies are creating new products and flavors every day. Because dabbing is popular with younger users, it has also produced new activism for legalization.
Is Dabbing Dangerous?
While dabbing has plenty of benefits and is increasing in popularity, users should be aware of the potential risks and approach with common sense.
Making concentrated cannabis is not for amateurs! The highest risk associated with dabbing is poor production. Because dabbing is such a hot topic today, more and more amateur cannabis “scientists” create at-home explainers and how-tos for extracting THC. But cannabis concentrates should not be attempted at home unless you really know what you are doing, aka have proper training.
As with anything involving chemicals and high heat, dangerous explosions or reactions are possible without proper setup. Additionally, amateurs are more likely to produce “dirty oil” containing toxic chemicals or other contaminants.
Potential Side Effects
Because dabs are so concentrated, dabbing is more likely to cause an episode of “greening out.” Greening out is the commonly used term for overconsumption of cannabis.
Side effects could include nausea, blackouts, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, severe anxiety, and hallucinations. Younger or first-time users may be at risk of overdoing it. A lot will depend on your individual tolerance and experience ingesting concentrated THC.
The best way to prevent this is to start small and test how you feel. New users should try vaping first to develop comfort with concentrates. If you’re dabbing for the first time, start with a tiny amount at the lowest temperature possible.
In our humble opinion (get moderately high with blunts) one hit is plenty to get an intense high. Ease your way into dabbing and don’t overdo it, and the effects should be safe and pleasant.
If you’re ready to try dabbing, be sure to follow two common-sense principles: Only dab with oil from a quality source, and make sure you have some prior experience with your physiological response to cannabis.
Dabbing can be a quick and straightforward method for experiencing a high. Because the effects are immediate, it’s easier to control than edibles. For people with chronic pain or other health issues, dabbing may be an effective way to get quick relief.
Overall, dabbing is a reasonably safe and effective way to experience the more potent highs and flavors possible with cannabis.