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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dabbing With Care - by Rachel Bunting

    Dabbing is defined as “pressing a piece of cannabis extract against a heated surface or oil rig pipe to inhale the smoke” and has recently become a favorite in terms of medical and recreational use. The cannabis extract, better known as wax, shatter, butane hash oil (BHO), or budder, is concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent such as butane or carbon dioxide creating a sticky oil. Nationally the flower of the cannabis plant contains around 11 to 30 percent THC but cannabis concentrates can produce a substance with as high as 90 to almost 100 percent THC. For patients that are in unbearable pain or nausea this form of medication is a Godsend because it delivers an extremely powerful dose very quickly. The amount of the flower that would need to be smoked to get the same effect is unrealistic.

     Because the drug is so powerful, inexperienced users are becoming victim to “overdosing”. They do not overdose in the classic sense of the word as there are still no deaths attributed directly to marijuana, but they can experience an uncomfortable high, passing out, or extreme paranoia. In some cases the high became too uncomfortable with the paranoia too intense and users found themselves in the hospital. According to Parents Opposed to Pot, the side effect of passing out has led to a cracked skull and a mouthful of missing teeth on separate occasions (though it should be noted that this is the same organization that believes “dabbing is to marijuana, as crack is to cocaine. No one should ever try it, because the psychosis can be immediate, and, as a habit, it is nearly impossible to get unhooked.”)

     The most dangerous part of dabbing is creating the oil. Butane Hash Oil (BHO) is made by blasting butane through a glass tube containing marijuana to extract the THC. The mixture is strained to remove the plant matter and the THC laced butane is heated to remove the butane. Amateur BHO producers can sometimes forget the evaporated butane fumes may hang around an enclosed area and will cause a large explosion with the smallest spark. There have been quite a few explosions in the time since dabbing first came on the scene. A safer alternative is a closed system that does not allow any butane to filter into the air. There are many professional BHO producers and distributors that have learned how to safely and effectively extract the THC as an alternative to amateur individuals attempting to
create their own. 

     While making the wax is itself dangerous for the inexperienced and unknowledgeable manufacturer, smoking it in some cases can be just as dangerous. While it does not happen often, there is always a chance that “dirty” butane or harmful contaminates may have snuck into the oil. Plants that have been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or have fungi can cause problems with production as traces of these contaminants can be included when extracting the THC. While dabbing you can get five times the dose of THC as compared with a joint, the same idea applies to harmful substances on the plant. Those substances will be five times their normal limit which can be dangerous. While it is an unlikely scenario, it is always good to know where medications are coming from, who is creating them, and what may have been added to them.

     It is true that there are some dangers associated with creating and ingesting BHOs, yet there are many medical benefits to the practice. A partner at the Denver dispensary Top Shelf Extracts told High Times that the drug is a miracle remedy. “I’ve seen it make people’s pain just evaporate. As medicine, it helps with both harm reduction—it practically cures withdrawal symptoms in people who are alcoholics or addicted to speed or pharmaceuticals— and pain management. It works every single time, and it’s easier to regulate your dosage.” Since not a lot is needed and the effects set in faster, BHO is an optimal choice for people suffering from chronic ailments. It is also easier and can taste better than flowers inside a vaporizer, making it more accessible for those using it.

     Dabbing is a quick and effective pain management technique which patients find very helpful. As with all medications and chemistry experiments, know what you are ingesting, and always keep safety in mind. Do the research before creating your own BHO, talk extensively with your caregiver about what they put into their plants, and medicate in the smartest, safest way.

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