Butane Honey Oil and Dabs: Abuse and Side Effects

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Butane honey oil, also known as butane hash oil (BHO) or dabs, is a marijuana extract that’s heated with a butane torch until all the plant matter is burnt away, leaving a sticky, wax-like resin that contains a high concentration of THC. Smoking this form of the drug produces a more intense high. This form of smoking, called “dabbing,” is done by heating up a special pipe (often with a small butane torch) until it’s red hot, then using a tool to touch the resin to the inside of the pipe. This produces a smoke instantly that is then quickly inhaled.

Individuals who have been using marijuana for an extended period of time often turn to BHO because it allows them to experience a high that reminds them of the first time they ever took the drug. It produces a blissful high that also impedes coordination and reflexes more than smoking the plant form of marijuana.

Abuse and Addiction

Any time someone seeks out an alternative way to get high on a drug they’ve been taking in order to experience more intense effects, this is a strong indication of a developing addiction. Like many intoxicants, marijuana produces tolerance in users, requiring them to take higher doses to get the same effect. It can eventually become difficult for them to achieve a satisfying high, and these individuals end up seeking out more intense methods of intake. However, this only increases tolerance and fuels addiction.

Aside from more intense symptoms of marijuana use, the signs of BHO abuse can be spotted by the drug itself and a change in the tools used. BHO users typically use a large pipe or “bong” and a butane torch that needs to be refilled. This form of the drug is also more expensive, so increased spending or a need for money can be a sign of BHO abuse.

Marijuana is not considered to be physically addictive; however, people can become psychologically addicted to the pleasant feelings caused by the high. Though it’s not considered to be as dangerous as other drugs, there are side effects associated with its abuse, and higher concentrations of a drug increase the risk of experiencing negative effects.

Side Effects

In addition to more intense side effects from THC, butane is a highly volatile gas. There have been reports of explosions and fires resulting from people attempting to create BHO at home. Seventeen people were hospitalized in the city of Portland, Oregon in 16 months after trying to make this substance.

Additionally, research on the effects of ingesting a substance made with butane is lacking, but butane itself is certainly not considered safe to consume in more than trace amounts. Though BHO is supposed to be virtually free of butane, the fact that it’s often produced illegally leaves users exposed to the risk of ingesting impurities.

Possible side effects from BHO include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Faintness
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced coordination
  • Altered perception of time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced motivation
  • Malaise
  • Slowed speech

Effects from marijuana, including BHO, are not considered to be directly dangerous. However, impaired judgment, concentration, and coordination make driving or operating other heavy machinery significantly risky. People who have smoked bad batches of BHO have also reported intense headaches and swelling around the throat, which can block the airway if it becomes severe enough. Studies on the effects of BHO on the lungs are also ongoing, but any smoking is typically considered to be harmful by medical experts.

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