5 Things Pharmacists Should Know About Dabbing

For some, dabbing is a dance popularized by pro athletes like Cam Newton and LeBron James.

For some, dabbing is a dance popularized by pro athletes like Cam Newton and LeBron James.

via GIPHY

For others, it refers to using a potent marijuana extract.

Here are 5 things pharmacists should know about the potentially less familiar form of dabbing that is increasingly a public health concern.

1. The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-concentrated substance is yellow and looks like honey or butter.

The substance is often referred to on the street as “honey oil” or “budder,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Marijuana concentrate can also be referred to as 7IO, or “OIL” reversed and flipped over.

Some other street names include wax, ear wax, butane hash oil, shatter, dabs, black glass, and errl. It’s also referred to as “the crack of pot.”

An unnamed teenager was quoted in The New York Times saying, “Marijuana is the beer of THC, as dabbing is to vodka.”

2. The concentrate can have THC levels anywhere between 40% and 80%.

“This form of marijuana can be up to 4 times stronger in THC content than high-grade or top-shelf marijuana, which normally measures around 20% THC levels,” the DEA stated in an article on marijuana concentrate.

3. The marijuana concentrate is often placed in e-cigarettes or vaporizers.

E-cigarettes or vaporizers allow the user to disguise the concentrate easily because it’s smokeless and odorless. An individual can heat a “dab” of the marijuana concentrate through the e-cigarette or vaporizer and get high instantly through the vapors.

The New York Times recently reported that young individuals in the city can easily get away with dabbing because parents, teachers, and some authority figures don’t know what the substance is.

Law enforcement and sellers of the concentrate told the media outlet that dabbing has risen in popularity in the past few years.

4. The long-term effects of dabbing are unknown.

Because of the high THC levels, the DEA theorizes that dabbing could lead to more psychologically and physically intense effects than smoking or ingesting the plant form. So, individuals who dab could potentially experience more paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, and hallucinations. Dabbing could also lead to rapid heartbeat, psychosis, and blackouts.

The DEA also noted that those who use marijuana in plant form can experience withdrawal and addiction problems, so these issues could be heightened among those who dab.

In a 2014 study published in Addictive Behaviors, researchers found that the 357 marijuana users involved in the study said using dabs didn’t lead to more problems or accidents than using more traditional forms of the drug, but dabs did result in higher tolerance and withdrawal.

5. One method to manufacture marijuana concentrate can lead to explosions.

One way to create marijuana extract is through a dangerous butane extraction process.

“This process is particularly dangerous because it uses highly flammable butane to extract the THC from the cannabis plant,” the DEA stated.

Marijuana plant material is stuffed into a pipe with a filter on one end during the process. Then, butane travels through the open end of the pipe, and the THC from the plant material is forced through the filter into another receptacle.

This receptacle is then warmed to remove the remaining butane, which forms a dangerous gas that can create a fireball or flash fire if triggered by something like an open flame, static electricity, or an electric switch.

Extraction labs have been found across the country, but they are especially popular in the West and states that have more relaxed marijuana laws, according to the DEA.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Area task force issued a report in 2015 on the impact of legalization of marijuana in Colorado and found a 167% increase in THC extraction lab explosions from 12 in 2013 to 32 in 2014. There was also a 67% increase in injuries related to THC extraction lab explosions in the state.

The University of Colorado Hospital’s Burn Unit said skin grafts were needed to repair some individuals who were burned during an extraction. The burn injuries mostly affected the hands, arms, and face.

The task force also uncovered a drop in explosions in the first 7 months of 2015. The report credited publicity from police, fire, health care, and media sources in 2014 about the dangers of THC extraction labs.

The top 3 cities for explosions were Denver, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs.