What Are Dabs?
Dabs are portions of cannabis concentrates that you vaporize using a dab rig, through a process known as dabbing. This concentrated form of cannabis is usually much more potent than marijuana flower.
Additionally, because these blobs are typically made up of highly concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes, dabs are sometimes known to be very flavorful. And because you’re supposed to vaporize dabs instead of combust them, dabbing also delivers a very clean taste, if done properly. Popular examples of THC concentrations that can be dabbed include budder, badder, sauce, crystalline, live resin, rosin, and butane hash oil (BHO), or honey oil.
BHO can be smoked through a water pipe, oil pipe, or glass bong. It is also popular to use e-cigarette or vaporizers to vape the dabs. These provide an odorless, smokeless way to use marijuana that is easy to conceal. BHO can also be added to food or drink. Edibles with BHO make it possible for individuals to ingest highly concentrated THC. This is reported to result in a much more potent high than smoking, and it has potentially caused some issues with people suddenly passing out and having trouble breathing.
The Risks of Dabbing
Because dabbing involves using marijuana with a much higher THC concentration, its physical and psychological effects may be more severe. Additionally, an article from Pediatrics states that, in creating the vapor to be smoked, the paraphernalia on which the dab is placed is often heated to temperatures greater than 400 degrees Celsius. Besides the obvious dangers of burns and starting a fire, this can also lead to the individual inhaling benzene, rust, and/or offgassing solder, which are associated with long-term health dangers. Furthermore, another study found that over 80% of the cannabis concentrates evaluated were contaminated with pesticides and/or residual solvent.
As mentioned before, because the process of creating BHO involves the flammable chemical butane, it can cause dangerous explosions. Some say that the dangers of making BHO are similar to those of making methamphetamine. A study from the Journal of Medical Toxicology evaluated a selection of cases where the patient had BHO burns. They found that the median burn size was 10 percent of a patient’s total body surface area. The median length that patients had to stay in the hospital was 10 days. Over 20 percent required intubation to protect the individual’s airway, and over 60 percent needed skin grafting.
Unfortunately, the potential risks of dabbing are not fully understood, because there isn’t enough research into it yet. It is speculated that dabbing may be linked to a higher risk of falls, accidents, and losing consciousness than regular marijuana use. However, further study is needed.
Dab Abuse and Withdrawal
Using marijuana as a teenager may negatively affect brain development and it is linked with a heightened risk of psychosis. Dabbing is likely to have similar effects.
One study found that individuals reported higher tolerance and withdrawal from dabbing, which indicates that dabbing may increase the likelihood of addiction or dependence. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Changes in appetite
- Sweating, fever, and/or chills
- Stomach pain
Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder
The false belief that marijuana is not addictive may lead people to not seek treatment for themselves or loved ones. However, it is estimated that over 4 million Americans age 12 and older had a cannabis use disorder in 2017. Signs that an individual is suffering from a cannabis use disorder include:
- Continuing using cannabis even though it is causing trouble with relationships or other social issues
- Stopping or decreasing other activities because of marijuana use
- Having problems fulfilling important responsibilities at school, work, or home due to regular marijuana use.
- Using marijuana repeatedly use in dangerous situations
- Continuing using cannabis even when faced with significant consequences
- Using the drug more or in larger amounts than intended
- Persistently wanting to or unsuccessfully trying to decrease or stop marijuana use
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from cannabis
- Craving marijuana
- Experiencing tolerance and/or withdrawal
Thankfully, addiction to marijuana is treatable. Research on cannabis use disorder treatments suggests that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management lead to the best abstinence results. These interventions can help individuals avoid relapsing to dabbing and/or other marijuana use, as well as help them better function on a day-to-day basis.
More About Dabbing
Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods among cannabis users, offering a potent high and flavor-packed experience. Consumption is usually done with a dab rig — a glass chamber similar to a bong.
Rigs typically require a titanium, ceramic, quartz or glass nail, also known as a banger. Think of them as the bowl, but made for a rig. Consumers use a butane torch or e-nail to bring the banger to a temperature that almost instantly vaporizes the concentrates.
Dabbing typically offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. It will typically produce a strong flavor and terpene-rich aroma. If you’re concerned about odor, you might be wondering, do dabs smell?
To some extent, yes, but the scent of marijuana concentrates do not linger for very long at all. Moreover, dabbing arguably offers even more discretion when handheld vaporizers and portable e-rigs are used.
The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved in achieving the perfect vaporization temperature. The temperature of the nail at the moment that you take the dab will affect the flavor, ability to clean your nail, and according to recent studies, it could alter the desired effects of the concentrate.
High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170-370 degrees Celsius — will scorch your concentrates, giving off an astringent and harsh flavor. Those temperatures also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. At low temperatures — below 340 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170 degrees Celsius — also known as “low-temp dabs,” the concentrate is not fully vaporized, leaving behind a small amount of oil that can be easily removed with a cotton swab.
A study from Portland State University published in September 2017 has also found that vaporizing terpenes at the high temperatures required for dabbing may produce the toxicants methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab weed concentrates at high temperatures, it may turn terpenes toxic.
How to Dab Weed Concentrates
The technique, upfront cost, and the number of accessories involved in dabbing may be overwhelming to newcomers. But once you get the process down, using a rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple:
- Step 1: Heat up the nail with the torch. If it is your first time and you are using a quartz nail or banger, heat it up until it is glowing red. This will ensure that any small particles are burned off and you are starting with the hottest possible surface.
- Step 2: Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you dab weed concentrates, you want to let your nail cool down so you don’t scorch your dab. The amount of time you need to wait is dependent on the thickness and material of your nail or banger. Your target temperature should be around 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit, or 149-232 degrees Celsius, to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.
- As a general rule, it usually takes 30 to 60 seconds for a nail to cool, depending on the material and thickness of the nail and how hot you have heated up the nail.
- To dial it in even further, you need to figure out exactly how long it takes for your nail to cool to your desired temperature. To do this, you’ll need an infrared thermometer and some sort of dab timer — you can use either a stopwatch or you can download a specialized app for your smartphone.
- Step 3: Place the concentrate on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. Unlike a typical bong hit of flower, dabs require a long, slow inhale as the majority of the concentrate does not vaporize instantly.
- Step 4: If available, place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will act as an oven and trap all of the heat in the nail to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
- Step 5: Exhale the vapor immediately.
- Step 6: Clean your nail. To prevent residue from possibly changing the flavor, always keep your nail clean. To clean, allow the nail to cool down a bit and then swipe the inside of the warm nail with a cotton swab. For more deep cleaning, dip a cotton swab in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and rub it along the interior of your warm nail.
It may take some time and repetition before you really feel you know how to take a dab. But once you get an intuitive sense of the simple steps involved, it’s an incredibly efficient way to consume cannabis concentrates and use them to their full potential.
The most effective dabbing alternative to a traditional dab rig is arguably using an e-rig or e-nail. The main benefit of the e-rig is the ability to precisely control the temperature.