Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.
It is reported that over 104 million people have tried marijuana at least once in their lives. Besides alcohol, it is often the first substance tried by adolescents. Statistics show that the earlier an individual begins experimenting with drugs, the more likely they are to struggle with addiction later in life. With misconceptions surrounding the safety of marijuana use and its recent change in legal status in several states, the drug is finding its way into many homes and is more accessible than ever before.
With increased access to marijuana, people are beginning to explore new ways to get high. Edible treats have emerged on the market as well as a new form of marijuana called wax. Wax is made from concentrated cannabis resin that is then formed into a hardened mass. Depending on what part of the plant is used, wax can be one of the most potent forms of marijuana available on the market.
What is Dabbing?
Dabs, also known as butane hash oil (BHO), is made from a highly concentrated extract of tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient that is responsible for marijuana’s effects. Butane hash oil goes by a number of names including honey oil, budder, wax, and shatter. It is a thick, gummy, brownish-green substance that, when smoked through a water pipe (or bong), induces instantaneous, powerful highs. According to research, dabs are, at a minimum, four times stronger than smoking a joint. With the introduction of vaping, many have begun experimenting with dabs and e-cigarettes, allowing users to smoke the drug in public virtually undetected.
Producing dabs is just as dangerous as using them. In order to create wax, the maker must use butane gas, which—when poured over the drug—extracts the THC. This mixture is then heated until the butane evaporates, leaving the wax behind. This step is the most dangerous, as the gas can leave extremely flammable vapors in the air. The accumulation of butane vapors can cause large explosions that can be sparked by just about any source and cause serious injury and even death.
What are the Risks?
The effects of marijuana vary depending on the individual and the potency of the drug. The amount of THC in marijuana has increased steadily over recent years, making the effects of the drug stronger, but even with this increased potency, it is not as strong as dabs.
Marijuana can cause an individual to experience a number of symptoms including:
- Increased appetite
- Heightened sensory perception
- Lack of coordination
Since many people do not regard these side effects to be as dangerous as those produced by more illicit drugs, they continue to use the drug without fear of consequence. This is what makes dabs so dangerous – because they are derived from marijuana, many do not believe the side effects associated with use will be severe. Traditional marijuana typically contains anywhere between 15 to 18 percent THC, while dabs can contain anywhere between 80 to 90 percent. Some reports suggest that this potency makes one dose of wax equivalent to smoking 15 to 20 joints.
This increased potency makes the side effects of dabbing much more severe and many users are not prepared for its powerful psychoactive effects. Higher doses of THC can cause users to experience paranoia, anxiety, vomiting, and other psychological issues that may last for days at a time. In addition, because the drug is created using butane, it is possible to inhale butane fumes while using wax. Butane is known to impair the brain and nervous system, causing other dangerous side effects including dizziness, increased heart rate, unconsciousness, and even death.
Dabbing can cause many of the same side effects as traditional marijuana use, but with more dangerous consequences. When smoked, dabs and traditional marijuana can cause individuals to develop a regular cough and symptoms of bronchitis. In addition, smoking makes an individual more susceptible to chest colds, infections, and pneumonia. While not everyone who uses these substances necessarily becomes addicted, regular use does lead to increased tolerance, requiring an individual to use more of the substance in order to achieve the same effects. This is especially dangerous when considering the levels of THC in dabs.
Regular use of cannabis, whether in the traditional sense or by wax, can impair an individual’s learning capabilities as well as their social behaviors. This is especially true of individuals who begin using the drug early in life, specifically during adolescent years in which the brain undergoes critical developmental changes. Studies show that marijuana use during this stage of life can impair a person’s memory, judgement, learning, and attention skills. They are also more likely to have poor relationships with family members, be more accepting of dangerous behaviors, and are often lower-achieving.