BY SARA COUGHLIN
Unlike rolling a good old fashioned joint, there’s something inherently futuristic about dabbing. Between the gadgetry required and the involved nature of the process itself, dabbing may seem intimidating to newcomers. But all it takes is a quick introduction to understand how dabbing works and why its popularity continues to rise.
Simply put, dabbing consists of heating then inhaling a concentrated extract of THC, aka tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis, using a bong-like device called a dab rig. That concentrate might be a wax, resin, or oil, and usually contains between 50% and 90% THC; that’s quite a bit more than even the most potent cannabis strains, which generally contain around 25% THC. It’s this increased concentration of THC that sets dabbing apart from other forms of consumption—and it’s the main reason why you should do your research before giving dabs a try.
For starters, obvious as it might sound, using a product with a higher concentration of THC means you ingest more THC at once, so your high will be more intense right off the bat. Even experienced cannabis users may be taken off guard by the effects of dabbing when they first try it, says Michelle Ross, Ph.D., MBA, a neuroscientist, cannabinoid medicine researcher, and author of Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency. “Your receptors aren’t really used to that,” Ross explains. Whether a more intense type of high is the desired effect or actually a source of discomfort completely depends on the individual.
Dr. Ross adds that the potency of dabs won’t just affect your high, but it’ll also change the way you use the product. Where you might smoke a joint until it’s done, you probably won’t take too many hits from a dab rig at one time. “You’re getting more milligrams per inhalation, but you’re probably going to be consuming less frequently,” she says, adding that dabbing is, undoubtedly, the most efficient way to get high.
That said, dabbing is not without risk. For one thing, Dr. Ross notes that the long-term effects of dabbing aren’t known at this time. She also emphasizes the importance of selecting a high-quality, medical grade concentrate. “You’re inhaling those cannabinoids [in the concentrate], but you’re also inhaling any residual solvents or pesticides that might be left over in that concentrate,” Dr. Ross says. “Go top shelf when you’re using dabs.”
Once you’re ready to try dabbing, Dr. Ross recommends starting small (using much less than you think you should) and doing it in a place where you feel safe and comfortable—ideally, your own home. Again, your first time dabbing will be the most intense, so familiar surroundings like, say, a place where it’s cool to take a nap, will make the experience more pleasant. She also suggests keeping a CBD product handy, as CBD can help counteract the effects of THC if you start to feel uncomfortably high. And, going forward, keep a journal to record how much you used, how you felt, and other details that will clarify what you’d like to do the next time. Now you can go forth and dab with confidence—enjoy!