Type to search

Dabs: Dangerous and Problematic Drug


Dabs—also known as ear wax, honey oil, wax, hash oil, or shatter—is quickly becoming a fad with marijuana smokers all over the country. Due to the very strong high and the potency of this new substance, dabs might unfortunately become the future of marijuana drug abuse. 

The substance itself is actually butane hash oil (BHO), which can be extracted from marijuana—oftentimes in a very dangerous manner. The simplest definition would be to say that BHO is an extremely concentrated version of marijuana. Some of the strongest strains of marijuana contain approximately 25 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while some BHO can contain over 60 to 90 percent. As stated in a Maryland local news article, a police officer working to fight the growing problem of dabs called the substance “the crack of marijuana” (Rossi, 2013).

Dabs is created by two methods, dubbed “open” and “closed” by The Fix, a website for addiction and recovery news. The open method of BHO extraction involves “packing a stainless steel tube with marijuana and ‘blasting’ the tube with butane (an extraction solvent)” states Fix writer Victoria Kim (2013). This is the most dangerous method, as butane is an extremely hazardous substance. The closed method is much safer; it requires the use of a butane oil extractor, a tool mainly used to extract oil from botanical herbs for aromatics and infusions.     

The consumption of BHO is called “dabbing.” This process involves touching a heated piece of metal, usually a nail, to the hash oil. A highly concentrated puff of smoke is emitted as a result, and users inhale it, sometimes through a glass pipe. These pipes are often exceedingly similar to crack and methamphetamine pipes. The high that follows the inhalation is so strong that “users have been known to pass out while ingesting it” (Rossi, 2013). 

Dabbing is extremely dangerous for several reasons. Firstly, the creation of the substance has been known to start fires or cause explosions. In August, Mount Vernon local news reported an apartment explosion caused by the creation of BHO (Whittenberg & Chittim, 2013). The explosion forced walls off their studs and blew all the windows out of the apartment, spreading glass as far as several feet into the complex parking lot. Three people were injured. Additionally, a man from California was seriously burned after attempting to extract BHO in his bathroom (KTVU, 2013). 

Secondly, the inhalation of BHO is incredibly dangerous as after extraction butane can linger in the oil. Shane Watson, from NotMyKid—an organization dedicated to empowering youth and preventing negative behavior—stated “the person that uses it could be smoking butane, which is neurotoxic and very dangerous” (Resendez, 2013). Furthermore, harmful chemicals on the marijuana plant used to harvest BHO—such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungi, according to The Fix—can still linger in the extracted oil (Kim, 2013).

Yet another danger is that dabs is becoming popular not just with older marijuana smokers, but with adolescents. Because only a small amount of the oil is needed for consumption, the oil can be easily hidden and transported. It can also be extracted using household items an adolescent might have easy access to. In August, a fifteen-year-old living in Santa Rosa, California was arrested for having an in-home lab where he produced BHO (KTVU, 2013). Forty-three pounds of loose-leaf marijuana and seven grams of BHO were found in a backyard shed when police investigated. 

The NotMyKid organization provided an informational tool for parents so they would be aware about the dangers of dabs. NotMyKid tells parents that dabs can look like “dark brown, amber, or golden oil or resin, pale or yellowish wax, tar, honey or honeycomb” (NotMyKid, 2013). They warn parents to be on the lookout for items such as “butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol” as well as coffee filters. The organization aims to help parents identify warning signs that their kids might be using BHO in order to prevent the spread of this harmful substance among adolescents.        



Kim, V. (2013). Is “dabbing” the crack of pot? The Fix. Retrieved from http://www.thefix.com/content/dabbing-crack-pot-legalization91774

KTVU. (2013). Santa Rosa police arrest teen after hash oil lab found in shed. Retrieved from http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/santa-rosa-police-arrest-teen-after-hash-oil-lab-f/nZYnd/?utm_source=Parent+Alert%3A+What+Are+Shatter%2C+Dabs%2C+and+BHO%3F&utm_campaign=Parent+Alert+-+BHO&utm_medium=archive

NotMyKid. (2013). What are shatter, dabs, and BHO? Retrieved from http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs182/1101799884402/archive/1114624160540.html 

Resendez, M. (2013). ‘Dabbing’ the new drug of choice for teens? Abc15. Retrieved from http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/region_phoenix_metro/central_phoenix/dabbing-the-new-drug-of-choice-for-teens

Rossi, L. (2013). ‘Dabbing:’ Dangerous new drug seized in Maryland. Towson Patch. Retrieved from http://towson.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/police-on-dabbing-the-new-drug-has-come-to-maryland

Whittenberg, J., & Chittim, G. (2013). Hash oil extraction explosion injures three in Mount Vernon. King5. Retrieved from http://www.king5.com/news/crime/Mount-Vernon-apartment-explosion-injures-three 219903071.html?utm_source=Parent+Alert%3A+What+Are+Shatter%2C+Dabs%2C+and+BHO%3F&utm_campaign=Parent+Alert+-+BHO&utm_medium=archive