Dangerous Side Effects of Smoking Dabs by Rehab Recovery Centers

“Dabs” are a form of marijuana concentrate. Rather than coming in plant form, dabs come in wax, shatter, butane hash oil (BHO), live resin, and budder. While THC dabs were created in the 1970s, they didn’t become popular until 2014.

While many people believe that smoking dabs are the same thing as smoking marijuana, this is the farthest from the truth. Dabs are a highly concentrated form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), typically mixed with butane or other soluble compounds. This causes THC wax to be extremely high in THC, making the substance way more potent than cannabis flower.

Many people refer to marijuana dabs as the “crack of weed”, which is a fitting nickname when you consider the potentially dangerous side effects of smoking dabs.

The Side Effects of Smoking Dabs

Marijuana oils and waxes are considered to be the most dangerous form of THC to smoke. While the effects of dabs are comparable to that of weed, they are much stronger and more intense.

Additionally, because butane is a main ingredient of dabs, many individuals cough uncontrollably when they smoke THC wax. This often causes individuals to vomit and begin sweating profusely.

Let’s take a look at the main physical and psychological side effects of smoking dabs.

Physical Effects of Smoking Dabs

Psychological Effects of Smoking Dabs

The physical side effects of smoking THC concentrates include:

  • Blackouts
  • Dizziness
  • Violent coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Increase in appetite
  • Increased blood pressure

Because the various forms of THC concentrates have not been widely used until recently, there has not been ample research to determine the long-term physical effects of smoking wax.

The psychological symptoms of smoking dabs include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Memory issues and lapses
  • Sensory and perception changes

The psychological side effects of dabs tend to be far more concerning than the physical ones. Individuals with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are more susceptible to experiencing severe psychological effects.

What are the Dangers of Dabbing THC?

Most people view weed as a harmful substance, especially because it is naturally derived from a plant. However, THC concentrates go through a chemical process that takes away the organic nature of marijuana. Because of this, it is easy to see why THC dabs are considerably more dangerous than smoking marijuana.

Dangers of Dabbing THC


Because dabs are a higher concentrated form of THC, becoming addicted to this substance is relatively easy.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dabs can have a concentration of up to 80% THC, while marijuana usually has a THC concentration of 10-15%.[1] In other words, even the least potent dabs are about 4 times as potent as one joint of marijuana flower.

And, contrary to popular belief, there are an array of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with THC dependency.


Oftentimes, people who smoke dabs begin attempting to create homemade wax or shatter. This is extremely dangerous, as the process involves using butane to extract THC oils from marijuana plants. Because butane is highly flammable, this often ends in fires, burns, and explosions.

In fact, the risk of explosions is so high that researchers have compared the safety of home THC concentrate labs to that of at-home methamphetamine labs.[2]

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Marijuana has always been known to increase anxiety and sometimes result in panic attacks at large doses. However, because dabs are a highly concentrated version of marijuana, the risk of experiencing a panic attack is extremely high.

Smoking highly concentrated THC is also linked to the development of cannabis-induced anxiety disorder.


Marijuana wax is known to cause cases of psychosis in individuals who smoke this highly concentrated form of THC. Thankfully, the presence of CBD in marijuana plants often prevents individuals from experiencing psychosis. However, THC concentrates have very little (if any) CBD.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “These BHO products have increased THC concentrations and tend to have lower CBD concentrations; therefore, they put people at a higher risk of developing psychosis.”[3]

Hallucinations and Paranoia

The high levels of THC found in dabs are associated with feelings of paranoia and visual or auditory hallucinations.

A study conducted in 2017 explains what THC-induced paranoia is like. The case vignette explains, “Ms. J exhibited signs of paranoia, believing other students in her dorm were stealing from her and trying to poison her.”[4]

Respiratory Illnesses

The chemicals used to create wax and other forms of THC concentrates are known to cause respiratory illnesses and lung injury. For example, many dab users report developing a harsh, wheezing cough that could lead to dangerous effects if their lungs become infected by bacteria.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Dabbing BHO is associated with acute and chronic pulmonary complications. We recommend that physicians should consider dabbing-induced hypersensitivity pneumonitis as a differential diagnosis for acute pulmonary infiltrate among patients who dab BHO.”[5]

Finding Help for Marijuana/THC Addiction

Smoking any form of THC can lead to severe dependency, addiction, and lasting psychological issues. However, the dangerous side effects of THC become more pronounced and common among individuals who smoke dabs. If you or a loved one suffer from an addiction to THC in any form, professional addiction treatment can help.

At Rehab Recovery Centers, we understand how important it is to find a rehab program that is suited to your unique needs. Contact us today for more information on how to find an addiction treatment center near you.


  1. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/dabbing-dangerous
  2. https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2016.110604?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=American_Journal_of_Psychiatry_Residents%27_Journal_TrendMD_0
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7544610/
  4. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/cannabis-induced-psychosis-review
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8357011/

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