Last updated : March 30, 2017
Dabs or dabbing are slang names for the use of concentrated butane hash oil (or BHO). It is a relatively new method of administering/ingesting cannabis that involves the inhalation of highly concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active chemical in cannabis. This concentrated form is produced through a chemical process using butane oil. 1 It is also known as marijuana wax, budder, honeycomb and shatter and has been reported to have a THC concentration of approximately 80% (in comparison with traditional cannabis which is about 14-15%).1,2
The use of butane hash oil is not a new practice, but it does appear to be gaining in popularity particularly in the USA but also here in Australia. This increase in use is thought to be associated with the liberalisation of cannabis use in the United States. Interestingly, it is made by local businesses in Colorado for distribution to local cannabis dispensaries.1,3
There is anecdotal evidence that indicates people believe dabbing is a safer method of cannabis ingestion as opposed to a bong or joint due to the cannabis being vaporised and that the high potency of dabs reduces the number of times it needs to be taken to produce a ‘high’.
It has been reported that the home production of BHO (known as blasting) is hazardous as butane is flammable and highly volatile with a number of incidents such explosions, fires and severe burns occurring in the US.1
There is little known about the risks of ‘dabs’ compared to traditional cannabis but it has been proposed that the increased level of THC and the unique method of administration may increase the risk of dependence and intensify withdrawal symptoms.
The latest research from Stogner and Miller suggests that health care workers should be aware that dabbing may have serious health consequences for young people—including a higher risk of psychotic symptoms developing due to the high potency of dabs. Young people may not, in fact, be aware of the potency difference between dabs and traditional cannabis.1