Cite this article

NIDA. (2015, December 14). Is Dabbing Dangerous?. Retrieved from

press ctrl+c to copy
The NIDA Blog Team
December 14 2015
A hand lighting a lighter

Smoking marijuana extracts, sometimes called “dabbing,” has become more popular in recent years, and it has some doctors concerned.

Marijuana extracts—concentrated oils from the marijuana plant (sometimes called “hash oil”)—are a lot stronger than dried marijuana. The higher THC levels are what draw some people to try marijuana extracts.

On average, regular marijuana has a THC content of 12–13 percent. (Remember, THC is the chemical in pot that makes users feel high.) But the average marijuana extract has a THC content of more than 50 percent, and some extracts are as much as 80 percent THC!

Side effects may include explosions

Because the THC and other chemicals are more concentrated in marijuana extracts than in regular marijuana, the side effects of dabbing—like poor judgment and coordination—are likely to be more powerful than those from smoking weed. Since dabbing is so new, there are not many studies on this yet, unfortunately.

Marijuana extracts can also be very dangerous to make. One method for extracting the concentrated drug from regular marijuana involves forcing butane (a flammable chemical often found in lighter fluid) through a marijuana-packed pipe. Sometimes it works; sometimes it blows the house up, landing the maker in a burn unit (or worse). 

Dab at your own risk

Some scientists have said there should be more public education about the risks of dabbing. In 2014, one study found that, although using dabs didn’t cause more accidents than smoking marijuana buds, the extracts did cause people to build up a higher tolerance to THC and to have more symptoms of withdrawal.

Also, in a 2015 study, over 80 percent of marijuana extracts studied were contaminated with pesticides or poisonous solvents left over from the extraction process.

Marijuana in general is bad for teens’ developing brains. A new way to smoke marijuana doesn’t make it any safer.

Learn more: The real facts about marijuana edibles.