An article recently published in the journal Pediatrics warns teens to stay away from dabbing: apparently a trendy, new way to get high on marijuana. To dab, people are using butane to get very high concentrations of THC from cannabis, which exists in the form of waxy butane hash oil (BHO). This is dangerous because you need a blowtorch to extract the THC, and blowtorches are dangerous. Also, the super-concentrated THC gets you very high very quickly, which can be harmful.
Authors John Stogner and Bryan Lee Miller explain how the process works in their article,"Assessing the Dangers of 'Dabbing': Mere Marijuana or Harmful New Trend?" NBC News has excerpts from the piece:
"Blasting involves passing butane through a steel or glass tube packed with dried cannabis trimmings… because butane is very volatile, it evaporates (or is purged within a vacuum oven), leaving crystalized resins that can have a THC concentration approaching 80 percent."
Stogner and Miller add that results have been occasionally disastrous: "The process of creating these products is extremely dangerous because butane is flammable and volatile, and a number of fires, explosions, and severe burns have been attributed to home blasting."
Here's what it looks like:
Dabbing sounds pretty bad! Almost too bad for a full-on trend I had never heard of until I saw the backlash. So… is dabbing a real thing? According to my younger co-worker, who graduated from college in 2015, it is indeed a thing and has been around for "at least a few" years. He explained that yes, dabbing gets you "way higher" than edibles do, and though it may not have been a common way for his peers to get high, it was a known entity. Oh, to be young.
And weed-friendly sites like Leafly.com also confirm that dabbing is real, and fears about it aren't overblown:
"Dabbing can be dangerous. Actually, it’s the extraction that can be dangerous.The process can be tricky, but thanks to online forums and videos, many amateur "scientists" think they have mastered the technique enough to try it on their own. In cases when things go well, the product is probably still pretty poor. When things go bad, houses blow up."
And High Times echoed concerns that the super-high THC concentration can lead to some really bad (hospital) trips:
Last year, a young woman named Jessi was “blowing nails” of BHO when her throat suddenly swelled up, making it difficult to breathe. She was rushed to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with chemical epiglottitis, a condition in which the epiglott–the flap of skin that separates the esophagus from your trachea–becomes inflamed by an irritant (i.e. infection, heat, chemicals) and blocks off the windpipe.
So dabbing is real, and it is dangerous. But! It has also spawned some bizarre, beautiful art:
There's the pizza dab:
The romantic dab:
The animal dab:
Even the aspirational vacationer dab:
Points for creativity.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.