Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > Dabbing Weed: The Dangers & Side Effects of Smoking Dabs

Cannabis has long been used for its calming properties in illegal recreational settings and legal, medical settings. With easier access to cannabis, also known as marijuana, experimentation with methods of use is increasing.

One such use of the drug is known as dabbing, which has recently gained attention for the increased risk it brings to the user in comparison to smoking the dried leaves from a cannabis plant.

Dabbing refers to a specific way of using marijuana where the user consumes high concentrations (cannabis concentrates) of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

What Is Dabbing?

Dabbing is a method of consuming high concentrations of THC derived and extracted from the marijuana plant. Users inhale or smoke the vapors from the concentrate, which produces an intense high.

To extract THC from the plant, users typically pour butane over the dried marijuana leaves. Once the chemical compound is dissolved, it produces a sticky paste, or wax, containing extremely high levels of THC.

This sticky paste is then heated with a lighter or blow torch, releasing a vapor that the user inhales. Butane hash oil can also be used to dab when added to vape devices. Teens commonly use this method as it can be more inconspicuous in settings such as school or at home, given that the oils don’t produce an obvious smell.

It is thought that these cannabis concentrates, or dabs, contain up to 80% THC, which in comparison to normal weed is around eight times the strength. A joint with regular marijuana flowers will typically contain somewhere between 5% to 25% THC.

The effects of smoking dabs are much faster than smoking weed, which has a slower progression. This brings higher risks and more powerful side effects than smoking marijuana.

Street Names

Cannabis concentrates have many different names, including:

  • Dab wax
  • Shatter
  • Wax
  • Budder
  • Crumble
  • Cannabis oil
  • Hash oil
  • Resin

Are There Increased Risks of Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates?

Dabs are considerably stronger than marijuana and can be much more damaging to a person's physical and mental health. When cannabis concentrates are dabbed, risks include:

Higher Risk of Becoming Addicted

Because of the higher levels of THC, both short and long-term use of dabs can considerably increase the chances of developing an addiction.

For users who become physically or psychologically dependent on cannabis, it is common to experience distressing withdrawal symptoms. These are typically stronger when dabbing rather than smoking regular weed, making quitting even more challenging.


The process of extracting THC brings an added element of danger for the user. This is not a physical side effect of dabbing itself but rather a potentially dangerous part of obtaining the chemical.

Butane is an extremely dangerous gas, so using fire in tandem with it could result in severe burns and also the risk of an explosion.

Intake Is Difficult To Control

The amount of wax needed to feel intense highs can look like an insubstantial amount, which is misleading even for those who regularly use marijuana.

Taking highly concentrated forms of marijuana extracts is risky, especially given the difficulty of accurately knowing how much is being taken. Unfortunately, this can result in an overdose.

Although overdosing on cannabis is not known to be lethal, it can give rise to some distressing physical and psychological side effects.

A More Intense High

Dabbing typically results in a more intense high than smoking marijuana. This high usually includes a more potent range of side effects that may be associated with marijuana.

Physical Symptoms

The physical symptoms and effects of dabbing include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking - This is sometimes referred to as the cannabis shakes. Shaking can include twitches and tremors, which can increase after dabbing.
  • Blackouts - After inhaling the vapors or dabbing, many people experience blackouts that cause them to lose consciousness momentarily. This is not a common side effect of smoking marijuana.
  • Vomiting - Dabbing can also cause sudden, uncontrollable vomiting, particularly if users inhale too much vapor at once. This is also not a common side effect of smoking marijuana.
  • Respiratory illness - The chemicals used in THC extraction, combined with the extreme heat levels needed to produce the vapors, can cause lung injury and other respiratory diseases. It is common for people who dab to experience a wheezing cough. Meanwhile, irritated lungs can lead to more severe illnesses if exposed to bacteria.

Psychological Symptoms

In addition to physical symptoms, the psychological symptoms and effects of dabbing can include:

  • Anxiety - Anxiety is common in regular marijuana users. Still, given the increased intensity of THC when dabbing, these anxiety levels can become more intense and, in some cases, lead to panic attacks.
  • Psychosis - Psychosis is also linked to high levels of marijuana use. However, it may not only be attributed to the high levels of THC in dabs but also the other chemicals used in the extraction process.
  • Hallucinations - Dabbing has been linked to prolonged hallucinations, leading to confusion and uncontrollable behavior.
  • Paranoia - Also linked to all forms of prolonged marijuana use, paranoia is a distressing side effect of dabbing. The level of THC found in dabs is thought to produce severe levels of paranoia and paranoia-related behavior.

Dabbing Withdrawal Symptoms

Dabbing withdrawal symptoms share similar features to that of smoking marijuana. However, the side effects produced are stronger in comparison to smoking normal weed. There are typical stages of withdrawal a user will go through:

Initial Stage

The first withdrawal symptoms tend to appear within the first three days after last use. These initial symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Night sweats

Typically these symptoms will last around one week.

Stage Two

Three to six days after the last concentrates are inhaled, it is common to experience:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks

These symptoms might be at their strongest around the fourth day after use and can take a couple of weeks to wear off.

Stage Three

Around the fifth day after last use, it is common to experience a new set of symptoms. Generally, these symptoms include irritability, restlessness, anger, disturbed sleep, nightmares, and vivid dreams.

Stage three is often the most challenging stage for individuals. It is also when many people are likely to relapse. Considering the freedom on the other side of this stage can help during this challenging time.

Recovery From Marijuana Addiction

The withdrawal symptoms from dabbing can be intensely unpleasant and make it very difficult to stay on track. For some people, the temptation to ease symptoms by using and engaging in drug abuse is very strong. Choosing a quality recovery center like Cirque Lodge can be the difference between making a full and sustained recovery and relapse.

The strength of cannabis concentrates can quickly lead to dependence and difficult withdrawal when a person stops using. The effects increase considerably if they also live with any additional mental health issues.

Although most people dab recreationally, in party scenarios, or following the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, the reality can become much darker when stronger forms, such as dab wax, are used.

Contact Us Today

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is in the grips of marijuana addiction, don't hesitate to call us today. In doing so, we can offer professional help and talk you through our treatment plans.

We believe that everybody deserves a life free of addiction, and we are here to support you.

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