What is a Dab and How Does It Differ from Traditional Cannabis Consumption?

by Matt Hampton
A person using a blow torch in a cannabis plant-filled environment.

Many people are curious about the new ways to enjoy cannabis. Dabbing is a method that uses concentrated doses of cannabis, known as dabs. This article will explore what a dab is, how it's made, and how it differs from traditional smoking methods.

Dive in for an enlightening read!

Key Takeaways

  • Dabbing uses cannabis extracts called dabs, which are more concentrated than traditional cannabis. This makes the high stronger and quicker.
  • To make dabs, people extract THC from the cannabis plant with solvents like butane or CO2. The result is a potent sticky oil or wax.
  • Unlike smoking, dabbing involves inhaling vaporized concentrates through a dab rig or pen, which can be less harmful than smoke inhalation but carries risks of overconsumption due to potency.
  • There are many types of dabs such as shatter, wax, budder, and oil. Each type has a different texture and potency level catering to user preference.
  • The lack of regulation in making dabs means users might unknowingly consume harmful substances along with their concentrate.

What is a Dab?

A person using a blow torch in a cannabis plant-filled environment.


A dab is a concentrated cannabis extract that is heated and inhaled to produce a potent high. It is made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant using solvents like butane or CO2, resulting in a sticky oil or wax-like substance.

Various forms of cannabis concentrates, such as shatter, wax, or budder, can be used for dabbing.

Definition of a dab

A dab refers to a highly concentrated form of cannabis that delivers a potent dose of THC, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana. This concentrate comes in various forms such as butane hash oil (BHO), wax, and shatter, each offering different levels of purity and potency.

The process of making dabs involves extracting THC using solvents like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in a sticky oil also known as 'wax' or 'shatter' due to its texture and appearance.

Users consume dabs by vaporizing the concentrate on a hot surface, often referred to as a "dab rig," and then inhaling the vapor produced. This method of consumption allows for quick onset of effects, which can be much stronger than traditional smoking methods.

Dabbing has gained popularity among stoners for its efficiency and strength, albeit raising questions about potential risks associated with high-potency cannabis concentrates.

How dabs are made

To make dabs, cannabis concentrates are produced through a process of extraction using solvents such as butane or CO2. The resulting concentrate is then purged of any remaining solvents to create a potent substance rich in THC.


  1. Cannabis concentrates are made by soaking the plant material in a solvent like butane or CO2 to extract the cannabinoids.
  2. The resulting liquid is then heated to evaporate the solvent, leaving behind a concentrate rich in THC and other cannabinoids.
  3. This concentrate can take various forms such as wax, shatter, budder, or live resin depending on the extraction method and post-processing techniques.
  4. Some popular extraction methods include butane hash oil (BHO), CO2 extraction, or ice water extraction.

Types of cannabis concentrates used for dabbing

A person holding a dab rig with cannabis concentrates surrounded by extraction equipment and various photography subjects.


There are various types of cannabis concentrates used for dabbing, including shatter, wax, budder, and oil. These concentrates are created through extraction processes that involve using solvents like butane or CO2 to strip the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material.

The result is a highly potent substance rich in THC or CBD that can be vaporized and inhaled using a dab rig or dab pen.

Each type of concentrate offers a unique consistency and potency level, catering to different preferences among users. Shatter has a glass-like transparency and is known for its high THC content, while wax has a softer texture and retains more terpenes for enhanced flavor profiles.

How Dabbing Differs from Traditional Cannabis Consumption

A person using a modern dabbing setup to exhale vaporized cannabis.


Dabbing delivers a more potent and immediate high compared to traditional smoking methods. Unlike smoking, dabbing involves inhaling vaporized concentrated cannabis through specialized equipment such as dab rigs or pens.

Consumption methods: smoking vs dabbing

A glowing dab rig and torch in a still life photo.


Exploring the methods of consumption offers insight into how dabbing stands apart from traditional smoking. Below is a comparison in table format:


Aspect Smoking Dabbing
Method Igniting dried cannabis flower and inhaling the smoke Heating cannabis concentrates to a high temperature and inhaling the vapor
Tools Required Pipes, bongs, rolling papers Dab rig, torch, dabber tool
Onset of Effects Immediate, but gradually intensifies Rapid and intense onset of effects
Control Over Dosage Easier for beginners to gauge and control Challenging due to high potency; requires experience
Risks Smoke inhalation, less potent effects Higher risk of overconsumption, requires handling high temperatures

Both methods have unique attributes that cater to different preferences in the cannabis community. Next, we delve into the effects and risks associated with dabbing compared to traditional smoking.

Effects and risks of dabbing vs traditional smoking

A photo of a smoky room with cannabis concentrate and traditional smoking apparatus, showcasing diverse people and nature photography.


Dabbing delivers a more potent high compared to traditional smoking because concentrates have higher THC levels. This can lead to stronger psychoactive effects and an increased risk of adverse reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, or even hallucinations.

The rapid onset of dabbing may also contribute to overconsumption, leading to a greater risk of cannabis use disorder.

In contrast, traditional smoking allows for easier control over dosage due to lower THC concentrations in flower or herb form. Additionally, the combustion process during smoking produces harmful toxins and carcinogens that can cause respiratory issues and other health concerns over time.

Controlling dosage and risk of overdose

A person measuring cannabis concentrate with a dab tool in a well-organized kitchen.


To control dosage and reduce the risk of overdose, use a dab tool to measure the amount of concentrate. Start with a small dose and wait for the effects before taking more. Store concentrates safely away from children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.

Be cautious with high-THC extracts like BHO and prioritize low-THC options for a milder experience. When trying new dabs, take note of their potency to adjust your dosage accordingly.

Monitoring intake is essential in preventing adverse reactions; always be mindful of your tolerance levels when using marijuana concentrates. Always ensure that you understand the strength of the product you are consuming, leveraging reliable sources or lab testing results if available.

The Dangers of Dabbing

A photo of dangerous chemical solvents and extraction tools in an underground lab.


Dabbing carries the potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms, risks associated with extraction processes, as well as the absence of regulation resulting in unknown substances.

To understand these dangers in more detail, continue reading below.

Potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms

A person sits alone in a dimly lit room with a pained expression.


Dabbing can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Users may develop a tolerance, needing higher doses for the same effect. Tapering off dabs may cause irritability, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

The potent THC concentrates in dabs can increase the risk of dependency compared to traditional cannabis use. Withdrawal from dabs might bring about physical discomfort and psychological cravings.

The potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms is a significant concern with dabbing. The concentrated nature of dabs makes it easier to overuse, leading to increased tolerance and dependency.

Risks of extraction process

A busy cannabis extraction lab with safety equipment and workers.


In contrast to the potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms associated with dabbing, the risks of extraction processes used in creating cannabis concentrates are concerning.

Butane hash oil (BHO) extraction, one common method, involves using highly flammable butane gas as a solvent to extract THC from marijuana plants. This process can lead to explosions and fires if not carried out in a controlled environment by skilled professionals.

Additionally, BHO extraction may result in residual solvents remaining in the final product if not properly purged. These solvents pose health risks when consumed through dabbing. The lack of regulations surrounding extraction methods also means that unknown substances or contaminants could be present in cannabis concentrates, further increasing the potential health hazards for those who consume dabs.

Lack of regulation and unknown substances in dabs

A person inspecting a container of dabs in an unregulated environment.


The lack of regulation in the production and sale of dabs poses serious risks to consumers. Various harmful substances may be present in dabs, including residual solvents from extraction processes, pesticides, or other impurities.

These unknown substances can have adverse health effects when inhaled, potentially leading to respiratory issues and other health complications for users. Due to the unregulated nature of the market, consumers are at risk of unknowingly consuming unsafe products with little oversight or quality control.

In addition, the presence of unknown substances makes it challenging for consumers to gauge potency and purity levels accurately. This lack of transparency creates uncertainties about what users are inhaling into their bodies and increases potential health hazards associated with dabbing.

Seeking Help and Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder

Treatment options for addiction to dabs include counseling, support groups, and rehabilitation programs. Resources are available for those struggling with marijuana addiction, offering help in overcoming cannabis use disorder.

Treatment options for addiction to dabs

A person engaging in a therapy session surrounded by supportive individuals.


  1. Seek professional help from a licensed therapist or counselor experienced in addiction treatment for marijuana use disorder.
  2. Consider attending support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous (MA) to connect with others who are also struggling with cannabis addiction and learn from their experiences.
  3. Explore outpatient or inpatient rehab programs specializing in substance abuse treatment, which can provide a structured environment for recovery and access to medical support.
  4. Work with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or motivational enhancement therapy (MET).
  5. Engage in holistic approaches such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and healthy dietary habits to support overall wellness during the recovery process.

Resources for those struggling with marijuana addiction


If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction, it's essential to find support and guidance. Here are some resources that can help:


  1. Local addiction treatment centers specializing in marijuana use disorder can provide personalized care and support.
  2. Behavioral therapy programs focusing on substance abuse can help individuals address the psychological aspects of addiction.
  3. Support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous offer a space for individuals to share experiences and receive encouragement from others facing similar challenges.
  4. Professional counselors and therapists experienced in treating cannabis use disorder can provide individualized counseling and support.
  5. Educational programs on the risks of marijuana addiction and resources for seeking help are available through community organizations and health institutions.


Freshly prepared cannabis concentrates on organized lab table in bustling atmosphere.


Dabbing is a potent method of consuming cannabis resin. Compared to traditional smoking, dabbing delivers a more intense and rapid high due to the concentrated THC content in the extracts.

The extraction process for dabs involves potential risks, such as butane exposure and unknown substances in homemade products. Understanding these differences can help individuals make informed choices about their cannabis consumption.


1. What is a dab in cannabis culture?

A dab is a concentrated form of marijuana made by extracting THC using butane or other methods, resulting in a sticky oil also known as cannabis resin.

2. How does dabbing differ from other ways to consume cannabis?

Dabbing uses concentrated THC extracted through special processes like butane extraction, offering a more potent experience compared to traditional methods such as smoking marijuana directly.

3. Are there special tools needed for dabbing?

Yes, consuming dabs typically requires specific equipment like dab pens, which are designed to heat and vaporize the concentrated cannabis resin for inhalation.

4. What should I be aware of before trying dabs over other marijuana consumption methods?

Due to the high concentration of THC in dabs, it's important to understand the potential risks of drug abuse and adverse effects on health when considering different cannabis consumption methods.

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