The side effects of dabbing

Dabbing concentrates has emerged as one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis. Many consumers enjoy the potent flavors and aromas of this highly concentrated form of cannabis. However, too much of a good thing is possible if you dab excessively.

Here you'll learn about the potential positive and negative effects of dabbing, as well as how to avoid the unwanted side effects of excessive dabbing. 

What is dabbing?

Dabbing is the act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates through a temperature-specific heating method such as a dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer. Dabbers have an array of choices when it comes to the type of concentrate they can dab, such as budder, crumble, shatter, and wax. Depending on the dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer they use, they can control the heat settings precisely. 

taking a dab
Dabbing is the act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates through a temperature-specific heating method such as a dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

The right temperature is important for dabbing since extremely high temperatures can burn away therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes while also potentially introducing carcinogenic chemicals into the mix. For this reason, the benchmark temperature range for dabbing is between 380 and 420 degrees Fahrenheit.  

What are the intended effects of dabbing? 

The intense high that concentrates provide is the primary reason consumers choose dabbing over other cannabis consumption methods. In addition, the psychoactive effects of dabbing usually set in more quickly than they would through smoking marijuana. For some consumers, the effects may be immediate and for novices could last an entire day. 

This strong and extended high is due to the fact that concentrated forms of cannabis contain much higher amounts of THC, the chemical compound that gets you high. Cannabis concentrates may contain a THC content of 80% or more. As such, those new to cannabis should avoid dabs altogether and those new to dabbing should start very slowly. Being aware of the possible side effects of consuming too much THC will help anyone avoid the side effects of smoking dabs. 

What happens when you dab too much? 

Cannabinoids and terpenes aren't the only things that high temperatures can damage. There is also a risk of harming the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract. “While theoretically, there is need for far less consumption to obtain the same effects as vaping or smoking, the long-term consequences of dabbing will need ongoing study to predict which is safer,” said Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist.

While the long-term effects of too much dabbing may not yet be clear, the short-term side effects are similar to those associated with any type of overconsumption of THC. These may include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Numbness or crawling sensations under the skin
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Uncontrollable shivering or shaking

If you experience these or other side effects after dabbing, be sure to consult with a medical professional. 

What does the research say about overconsuming concentrates? 

Dabbing may carry a higher risk of dependency than other methods of consuming cannabis. “Cannabis, like other psychoactive drugs including opiates and alcohol, carries a risk of increasing tolerance. This leads users to consume more quantity and higher potency products over time to achieve their desired effect,” said Bone. This can lead to Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) and Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). While CUD is closer to what might have formerly been called addiction, CHS results in abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. 

man taking a dab
Dabbing may carry a higher risk of dependency than other methods of consuming cannabis.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Should someone with CUD or CHS continue to dab or consume cannabis in other forms? “Most users with either CUD or CHS are best served with stopping use altogether. It is rare that those who suffer from these conditions are able to reduce their consumption or adjust dose and frequency to avoid the consequences. Dabbing carries a higher risk of both CUD and CHS,” Bone said.

In addition to the increased risk of CUD and CHS, some research has shown that dabbing may expose consumers to greater levels of toxins. One 2017 study published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science found that contaminants present in dabbing could trigger both physical and psychological side effects. The authors of the study wrote that dabs vary in contaminant, THC, and CBD levels that could lead to a host of mental and physical problems.

How to avoid the side effects of dabbing

First, keep the heat toward the lower end of the spectrum, ideally not higher than 420 degrees Fahrenheit (a convenient number to remember). Lower heat will lessen the likelihood of carcinogens being released and of inflicting damage on the lungs. Also consider making dabbing an occasional experience rather than a daily practice. Try supplementing dabbing with other consumption methods such as edibles or sublinguals.

Ultimately, though, there is no guarantee that a consumer will avoid the side effects of dabbing. As Bone explained, “There is no tried-and-true way to avoid CUD or CHS when beginning to dab. It is wise to practice harm-reduction principles and to employ moderation. Tolerance breaks are usually recommended for marijuana users.”

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on January 12, 2021.