The Risks of Dabbing Cannabis: Shatter, Wax, Dab Drug

There seems to be a never-ending list of street drug names. From Molly to Spice, to Jellies and Cotton Candy, these seemingly friendly names are used to market illegal drugs, making them appear to be more accessible and less fatal. The Dab Drug, Wax, Shatter, or Butane Hash Oil (BHO) are the names of relatively new forms of smoking marijuana, and they come with possible dangers or risks.

What is a Dab Drug or Dab Wax From Cannabis Concentrates?

A dab drug or dab wax is a powerful, high potency cannabis concentrate or derivative of marijuana. One of the most potent types, “Shatter,” gets its name from its brown, hard toffee-like appearance. Shatter is like a thin sheet of fragile glass that can be easily shattered into pieces.

Probably the most important thing to know about Shatter or other cannabis concentrates is that they can contain 50% to 90% of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active component in marijuana that gets users high.

When compared to the typical 5% to 25% of THC concentration in regular marijuana flower or buds, it’s easy to imagine just how strong a dab drug is for the user.

People are turning to dabbing for it’s powerful pain relief and euphoric high.

Dabbing is sometimes referred to as BHO, or Butane Hash Oil, known for the process to create the drug, which often utilizes Butane to extract concentrated THC.

The process of making BHO is extremely dangerous, as Butane gas is highly flammable and deadly to humans. But that doesn’t stop people in homes all over the U.S. from making BHO, and sometimes blowing the house up.

BHO is created by pouring butane or other solvents over marijuana and then purging it an oven or a vacuum to remove the butane from the mixture. Because this can be dangerous, other methods are becoming common, such as using CO2 for the extraction instead of butane.

Cannabis Concentrates - Dab Drug, Shatter, Dab Wax

Names and Types of Cannabis Concentrates From Marijuana

There are many different names and types of cannabis concentrates from marijuana, and each one usually refers to a specific type of concentrate.

Common Names and Types of Cannabis Concentrates include:

  • Shatter
  • Dab Wax or Wax
  • Honey Oil
  • Budder or Butter
  • Cannabis Oil
  • Crumble
  • Hash Oil
  • Resin

These are all similar in that they are highly concentrated forms of marijuana, but each has its own unique properties and visual appearance.

1. Shatter

Shatter is usually considered the purest and cleanest of the lot, as well as being the most potent. It is a transparent solid that looks like honey and it can be cracked or shattered into pieces, hence the name.

2. Dab Wax

Dab Wax is similar to Shatter, although usually slightly less potent with more impurities and it is softer and not transparent.

3. Oil

Oil is a concentrate like the others, and even though it is less potent than Shatter or wax, it is almost always more potent than smoking flower or buds. Oil is also consumed in a different manner by using a vape pen similar to eCigarettes.

Marijuana concentrates should not be confused with synthetic marijuana, which is not made from made from marijuana or cannabis and is dangerous for entirely different reasons.

Marijuana vs. Shatter (The Crack of Cannabis)

Man made food, drinks or drugs often have harsh side effects and Shatter is no exception.

While Marijuana flower can have medicinal effects for some, Shatter can be more dangerous or risky to use. Shatter and other concentrates sometimes contain remnants of Butane or other solvents used in the manufacturing process, which are toxic.

Shatter and dab wax make people very high, very quickly, due to the increased levels of THC, which can result in overwhelming paranoia, anxiety and drug-induced psychosis.

All forms of marijuana create a tolerance to the drug, causing people to use more to get the desired effect. The same goes for Shatter or wax, but because the concentration is so much higher, people can be putting their health at risk when taking cannabinoids in such potent doses.

Shatter isn’t the first concentrated form of cannabis, however it’s one of the most recent. Taking concentrated hash oil or shatter is often referred to as the crack of cannabis.

Some users compare the strength of normal weed to beer and shatter to vodka because it’s much stronger.

The worrying thing about shatter is that the potency is due in part to the insanely high levels of THC content combined with other impurities during the refinement process.

Marijuana is normally consumed by smoking it in a joint, a pipe, or a bong, whereas the dabbing gear for Shatter is more specialized and can be expensive.

How Do People Take Dab Drugs?

How Do People Take Shatter or Dabs?

Cannabis concentrates can be taken in several different ways.

Cannabis oils are sold as a liquid and smoked using a vaporizer or vape pen. They come in vials that attach to a battery, or in a single, self-contained unit where the oils are heated to create a vapor and smoked.

Shatter or wax can be mixed with marijuana flower and smoked in a rolled joint or in a pipe or bong. It can also be “dabbed” using special paraphernalia to heat the drug.

“Dabbing” Shatter or wax is a process that uses an electronically heated metal surface called a “nail.” The concentrate is placed on the nail and when heated, creates a vapor that is inhaled through the pipe, which is called a “dab rig,” or more simply “rig.”

A dab rig can cost anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars for an expensive model. The nail is heated to high temperatures between 550 degrees to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, and this high temperature requires users to be careful when using it.

Related: 7 Tips For How to Quit Vaping and Stop Vape Withdrawal

What are the Dangers or Risks of Dabbing With Shatter or Wax?

People who produce shatter and concentrates put themselves and those around them in danger because butane and solvents are extremely flammable. This has resulted in explosions, serious injuries, loss of property and some deaths.

For the end user, Shatter and dab wax can be up to 10 times more potent than marijuana flower and as such, they can be more dangerous. The side effects can include mental health or psychiatric problems, drug-induced psychosis, paranoia, and high levels of anxiety.

Because concentrates include impurities and hazardous chemicals, users may be exposing themselves to pulmonary irritants that can affect the lungs.

Smoking extremely potent forms of marijuana increases the tolerance to the drug so that users must smoke more of it to feel the same effects, causing a dependence or addiction.

Possible Side Effects of Using Shatter

Shatter has similar side effects to marijuana flower, yet they are much more pronounced and severe due to the high levels of THC. In the short term, users might expect some of the following:

  • Increased anxiety or panic attacks
  • Intense paranoia
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure or increased heart rate
  • Decreased coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Sensory perception changes
  • Fainting, passing out or blacking out
  • In extreme cases, a psychotic break could cause temporary hospitalization

Long-term heavy users may develop psychosis, psychiatric disorders, or other chronic illnesses. Those with existing mental health conditions are especially at risk for more severe complications.

Related: What are the Negative Side Effects of Marijuana?

Dabbing Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects

Marijuana Use Disorder

Many marijuana users feel that it is an organic plant material with positive health benefits. There haven’t been many studies to prove the health benefits or risks because it is still considered a Schedule I drug and is still illegal for recreational use in many states in the U.S.

The debate ensues by many as to whether or not marijuana is addictive. Many healthcare professionals understand that it is in fact addictive, although it is not as dangerous or addictive as other drugs such as meth, opioids, or heroin.

Marijuana concentrates, on the other hand, tip the scales a bit due to the increased levels of THC. Some people consider transitioning from marijuana flower to Shatter is like stepping up from vicodin to heroin.

Higher potency drugs have a higher rate of dependence and addiction, and marijuana concentrates fall into this category.

Continued use of marijuana concentrates can cause a person to become dependent or addicted to THC. This is known as marijuana use disorder and can be difficult to overcome without professional drug addiction treatment.

For users who become addicted to dabbing or concentrates, quitting can cause negative withdrawal symptoms that aren’t fatal, but they can be uncomfortable and make quitting more difficult.

7 Dabbing Withdrawal Symptoms

The types of withdrawal symptoms felt by a Shatter user will differ, depending on the amount and duration of their use. THC in marijuana, and in more concentrated forms like Shatter, alters the brain’s chemistry by affecting the endocannabinoid system.

7 of the main withdrawal symptoms from dabbing include:

  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Tension

Because dabbing alters the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to rely on THC for feelings of calm or high, the nervous system can be impacted by those addicted to high-strength marijuana concentrates.

This can result in an inability to quit due to the functional and structural changes in the brain caused by addiction to marijuana.

The Bottom Line on Dabbing and Concentrates

Shatter, wax, and other dabbing concentrates are man-made drugs synthesized from the cannabis plant. They can be ten times the strength of regular marijuana and the dangers and side effects can be much worse.

The potency of these drugs can make them more addictive and might cause adverse mental health issues, especially for those who are already dealing with a mental illness.

Many people who started using opioid medications for pain found relief when using them correctly as prescribed by a doctor. Unfortunately, some misused them as their tolerance increased and they began chasing the high they felt early on. This lead them to become addicted, and they moved up to higher doses or stronger drugs like heroin.

The same can be said for those who smoke marijuana and then move up to wax or Shatter concentrates.

Moving up to higher levels of THC found in wax and Shatter can increase the chances of actually becoming addicted to THC and might also increase the chances of creating mental health issues they didn’t have previously.

Many long-term users of concentrates report they cannot feel the effects of smoking traditional marijuana flower any more and can only get high when dabbing.

All things considered, it begs the question, “do you really need to get that high?”

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