Medicating with Marijuana – The Emergence of Dabbing and How It Compares to Other, More Traditional Consumption Methods

People who use marijuana for medicinal purposes are not like those that use recreationally. Certainly, they may enjoy the effects of marijuana, but their purpose for using it is different. Some use it to manage the intense chronic pain of a serious illness. Others use it to combat the extreme nausea of chemotherapy. Still others use it to simply ease the symptoms of a condition that is attacking their body and will ultimately result in death.

Whatever their reason behind their use may be, there are those who need immediate relief and a stronger effect than they can achieve through other, more traditional methods of consumption. That is why some have turned to dabbing.

What is Dabbing?

Dabbing, or the use of concentrated marijuana, has been around for at least a decade, but it has only recently increased its clout within the medical marijuana community. It involves the heating and inhalation of highly concentrated cannabis oils, which are made through an extraction process that separates the THC and other cannabinoids from the flower. The end-product, or dab (also called wax, shatter, budder, or butane hash oil), is a sticky oil substance with a THC content of about 70 to 90 percent. One generally needs special equipment, such as a dab pipe, pen, or bong, to consume it.

The Benefits of Dabbing

Because the potent effects of dabbing are almost immediate, it is most suitable for those who deal with intense, chronic pain or extreme nausea. However, they may also be used for other medical patients that simply want faster relief. Due to the high concentration of dabs, those who struggle to obtain adequate dosing using other, more traditional methods, may also find dabbing to be more suitable.

Potential Dangers of Dabbing

One of the biggest concerns with dabbing relates, not to how the dabs are consumed, but how they are produced. Inexperienced and amateur “scientists” who wrongly think they are skilled enough to pull the extraction method off at home have caused concerning explosions. This has, sadly, caused there to be some comparisons drawn between dabbing and methamphetamines, crack, and other, more dangerous drugs. When paired with the somewhat off-putting process of consumption (glass pipes and butane lighters), dabbing has the potential to cause harm to the medical marijuana movement – a risk that some consider to be far too great.

Thankfully, laboratories have eschewed the “open” extraction method typically used by do-it-yourselfers and are pursuing a safer, “closed” method. Their sophisticated equipment both reduces the risk of explosion and contaminants. It also typically provides a higher quality product than what can be produced using “at-home” methods. Labs are also able to extract both THC and just the CBD, which gives consumers the choice between a high through dabbing, or simply a medicated effect without the high. Many have even found ways to add flavorings, giving users the power to choose the taste of their medicine.

Dabbing and the Risk of Overdose

Those who are new to medical marijuana, and those with a high sensitivity to THC, are at an increased risk of marijuana overdose when dabbing. As far as anyone knows, it still isn’t possible to suffer fatality from an overdose, even when consuming THC at such high levels. Yet it could cause an uncomfortable or frightening high.

Symptoms of overdose typically include issues like paranoia and panic. Some also feel as though their heart is beating rapidly or heavily. Others may simply pass out from the effects and then wake up still feeling sedated. There are also some claims that dabbing withdrawals may be more intense than those using other methods, but this has yet to be substantiated through either research or even consistent anecdotes. Still, it is worth noting for those who are considering dabbing as a method of consumption.

Comparing Dabbing to Other Consumption Methods

Other methods of marijuana consumption include ingestion, vaping, and smoking. Ingestion involves the consumption of edibles, such as candies or cookies, vaping, or smoking. This tends to be the most public-friendly version, and is often desirable for those who are sensitive to smoke or vapor inhalation. Unfortunately, this method can take an hour or longer to take effect. This makes it one of the least desirable methods for those who need fast or strong relief.

Vaping is yet another popular method which can, and typically does, produce a fairly immediate effect. It is often used by children who need medical marijuana, and it is also suitable for those who may not prefer the harshness of smoking. However, it does require the use of expensive equipment, and may not produce the level of symptom management that some patients need.

Traditional smoking of marijuana, which also produces a somewhat immediate effect, is too harsh for some. Also, like vaping, smoking cannot provide the same level of symptom management as dabbing. Further, smoking is not a suitable method for certain patients, such as children and those who may suffer from lung conditions.

Mitigating the Risks of Dabbing

Because home extraction is dangerous, and is likely to produce either contaminated or a poor-quality product, dabbers should only purchase their medication from reputable sources. To mitigate the risk of overdose, dabbers can test their tolerance slowly, going with a lower THC content and then working their way up. It is also worth considering dabbing only at home, at least until the patient’s tolerance is known. One should also never drive immediately after dabbing since this can increase the risk of an automobile accident. Being pulled over while under the influence may also result in criminal charges, even for those who are certified medical marijuana users.

For more information on the various methods of medical marijuana consumption, check out Everything Medical Marijuana Magazine’s website. Patients can also expect more on the latest developments in medical marijuana treatments, products, laws, and legislation in our next issue.

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