Dabs, Wax & BHO: What The Kids Are Smoking These Days

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At certain points in the history of drugs, there have been pivot points. Moments in time when the way a drug was consumed changed, altering the path of the habit for those that use it afterwards. The synthesis of Crystal Meth forever changed the population of amphetamine users, as the introduction of heroin to ameliorate the morphine epidemic changed opiate users. The 80’s in America would have been very different if no one had ever thought to create crack from it. We’re now seeing a similar shift, albeit from a much safer drug.

If you live in California, Colorado or Washington state, you’ve probably heard of this stuff, but if not, this might be something new. Butane Hash Oil, more commonly known as Wax or Shatter, has replaced the Hash of your day with something a bit more powerful & definitely not sprinkled on top of your bong. This stuff is cruising past even the most potent strains of “flower” (as regular pot is now being called) in THC/potency, with some dabs containing 70-90% THC. And not only is it something you can bury yourself in a couch doing at home, but modern technology has created on the go apparatus that allows the more privileged or networked among us to vape on the go.

This new habit requires a lot more equipment than a pack of Zig Zags. Because it’s such a capital intensive process, especially if you want to consume a quality product, dabbing is a decidedly luxury experience. There are bargain versions of the tools you use, but they’re less reliable. Additionally, the budget versions of wax are raising a lot of eyebrows in the dabbing community for health reasons.

Just to give you a sense of how complex this practice is, there are 3 kinds of “nails” to choose from, and that’s just the piece that you put the wax on the heated element with. That’s right, you can get a ceramic, “titanium” or quartz nail. While titanium is more durable, you’re also heating metal alloys, and that means if you’ve not purchased an expensive/durable nail, you’ll also be inhaling whatever is oxidizing with the wax when you vape it. Quartz (glass essentially) deals with heat without breaking down, as it deals with the heat a little better, but when you use cheap “quartz” you’re increasingly risking the quartz breaking. Ceramic is somewhere in between these two extremes, but of course, your mileage may vary. And that is for ONE component of this chain. That’s how you heat it or not how you inhale it, because each of those things has multiple options & component equipment.

At this point you’re probably thinking of that old Denis Leary joke “I didn’t want to smoke pot, not because I didn’t want to get high, but because I didn’t want to build anything.” But it seems the younglings are down to “blow nails” of this stuff all day. This is equivalent to doing shots for hours.

A recent article from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns about these high levels of THC in teens. There is also the concern of panic attacks. Because most wax/dabs are developed from heady pot, the anxiety/paranoia some of us are familiar with when smoking is amplified significantly. This has led to a proliferation of YouTube videos and reports on people needing to be talked down and possibly even assessed medically. While a lot of the info out there right now is essentially scare tactic bullshit, do be careful with this stuff. Some quick take aways are:

  • Know your source. BHO can be made cheaply & the long term effects of poorly made BHO haven’t been evaluated yet.
  • Take it slow. Don’t start off with giant dabs, and don’t treat a dab like a bong hit. You’re in for a much wilder ride if/when you dab.
  • When inexperienced, don’t combine regular pot & dabs. Not only can this become disorienting very quickly, but your throat & lungs will hate you for it.
  • Don’t treat it like regular pot until you know how you feel on it. Even if you’re a seasoned smoker, give yourself some time to acclimate. This includes giving yourself more time until you’re ok to drive.

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