What Are Dabs & How Do They Work?


Bethan Jenkins

March 28th, 2017

Policy, Top News


As the legal marijuana market expands, more people are introducing weed into their everyday life, whether it is for medicinal, relaxation, or social purposes. In fact, by 2020 the marijuana industry is predicted to create more jobs than manufacturing, with cannabis courses now being offered at a handful of colleges throughout the US. Since so many people are actively using marijuana, there is no wonder why the number of cannabis careers is growing so rapidly. Job roles in the cannabis industry vary, from budtending to weed trimming and by 2026, the industry is forecast to rake in $50 billion. As the various forms of cannabis consumption flourishes, the prospects look even better for marijuana industry as a whole.

How does one consume cannabis? Smoking joints or blunts is of course the most tried-and-tested method of marijuana consumption, with the CBD inhaling technique quickly catching up in the popularity stakes. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of at least 113 active cannabinoids contained in the plant and it accounts for 40% of marijuana extract. CBD ranks second-best to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical compound inhaled by means of water pipes, hand pipes, hookahs, vaporization, and oral methods, such as baking.

Cannabis consumption has extended to “dabbing” – a highly potent method of ingesting THC. A heat source is required to dab and due to the euphoric high it produces, dabbing is fast becoming the “it thing” for marijuana users.

So, what are dabs and how do they work? Let’s find out.

Dabs – An Overview

Dabs are wax-like concentrates that are typically smoked with a vaporizer pen or water pipe, better known as a bong. Created with a process involving butane, dabs are made with high-grade marijuana or hashish. Dabbing requires a flame-proof glass surface, marijuana concentrate, and a flame. When the heating surface (the “nail”) reaches optimum temperature, a vapor is inhaled from the “dabbed” concentrate.

Dabs may be sold under the following names:

  • Budder
  • Butane honey oil
  • Shatter
  • Wax

Creating Dabs and the Effects of Dabbing

Dabs are highly concentrated preparations created through a method of “flash vaporization”. Butane is used to withdraw oil from the cannabis plant material. When the butane evaporates, it is inhaled by the user, who will then experience an instant high. Medical marijuana users are being presented with an array of dabbing options nowadays since it has the potential to relieve chronic pain, improve sleep, treat glaucoma, slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and even prevent cancer from spreading.

While it is entirely possible to make dabs from home, precaution must be taken before doing so. A few tools are required to make dabs, including:

  • Torch – A handheld butane or propane torch used to heat the nail until it is burning hot.
  • Nail– The part that is heated to vaporize the extract, which is “dabbed” onto it.
  • Dome – This tool is placed over the nail to trap the vapor.
  • Water pipe – A marijuana bong will be used as a “dab rig”.
  • Dab tool – Also known as a wand, this stainless steel tool is used to pick up the extract.

Containing 50-90% pure THC, this type of marijuana concentrate is favored for its purity. If you are wondering “how do dabs work?”, you should know that when the flavorful vapor is inhaled into the lungs, the active ingredients are delivered into the body fast and efficiently. When THC attaches to receptors on the body’s cells, the effects are felt by the user. If marijuana is smoked, the THC will absorb into the blood and reach the brain in around 30 minutes, whereas with dabbing it has the potential to reach the brain much faster.

Potential Drawbacks of Dabbing

Contained in the concentrate are cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. There has been no evidence to prove that lung function or brain function is negatively affected when the plant pigments and chemicals are inhaled into the lungs by means of dabbing. Certain concentrates are below 500 PPM and anything below this amount is safe for consumption. However, this is not to say that dabbing is completely danger-free.

Overconsumption of THC may result in a bad high and since dabbing delivers THC to the body at a rapid rate, this is a possibility. Perhaps the biggest drawback is the preparation process. Inexperienced and amateur “dabbers” who have been enticed by the craze have failed in attempting at-home open-source extraction techniques, many of which have resulted in injury, explosions or in worst case scenario, death.

To dab or not to dab?

While it may not be a new practice (marijuana users started dabbing back in the 1970s), dabbing has rapidly grown in popularity over the last year or so. In order to dab safely, it is essential to learn how to use a dab rig responsibly, dose the concentrates properly, and acquire lab-tested marijuana concentrates. Researchers continue to conduct studies on this form of cannabis consumption. If you choose to experience a greater high from dabbing marijuana extracts, consult with your medical practitioner first.

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Bethan Jenkins

About Bethan Jenkins

Bethan is a full-time wanderluster, traveler, and digital nomad with 7 years of experience in the freelance writing world. She has mastered the art of beating jet lag and using hammocks as an office for content curation.


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