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What is “dabbing”?

An Interview with Deanna Seather-Brady, Ryther Chemical Dependency Program Director

What exactly is dabbing? When did this begin and why? Dabbing is consuming a cannabis (THC) concentrate. It is exposed to a heated surface and the vapor is inhaled. The result is an intense effect from a small amount. Dabbing has been around for years, but traditionally only among long time users of Marijuana. We have been seeing it here at Ryther among teen clients frequently for the last year or so.

How does this differ from usual marijuana? It is being referred to as the “Crack of Marijuana” comprised of 30 – 90% THC verses up to 22%. Unlike marijuana, there is minimal smell so it is easily concealed.

How long does the high last? Effects vary depending on dose, route of administration and tolerance level.

What items are required to do this? Rig – glass pipe or bong, butane torch, titanium nail or other kind of nail.

What can go wrong during this process of preparation in terms of explosives, injury or fire? Fire and explosions have occurred with butane.  Butane gas sinks and can develop into a butane pool in an unventilated closed space and inadvertently explode if ignited.

Are there specific signs parents should be on the lookout for? Paraphernalia, looks like paste or wax, easy to conceal. Behaviorally, you could see paranoia or symptoms of psychosis. There also would be high THC levels in a urine analysis.

What is the vernacular surrounding dabbing? It is called honey, amber, shatter, wax and ear wax.

What is the most concerning element that you and other treatment providers and emergency room personnel are seeing? We are seeing more and more psychotic symptoms, losing consciousness and some burn injuries. The other real issue is that with teens that have a predisposition for thought disorders or psychosis, such high levels of THC can be the tipping point. We have seen some clients actually not recover from a state of psychosis after dabbing.

What can we do as parents to warn teens about this? Talk to them about it openly while maintaining a no tolerance stance regarding use (this includes all substances of abuse).

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, will dabbing become less or more popular? The research in this state is showing that the process of legalization has decreased the perception of risk leading to dabbing becoming more and more popular with teens. Adults that have been using Marijuana regularly and have an increased tolerance report that dabbing allows them to be able to feel high again.

What some good websites for information?   Google images have pictures of the substance and paraphernalia. At this time there really isn’t a very good online source of information about dabbing.

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