The Effects of Dabbing on the Brain

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Cannabis users have many perks, but their ingenuity is perhaps their most notable quality. From edibles and vaping to tinctures, stoners seem to be coming up with new ways of using weed every other day.

Although dabbing has been around for some time now, it has recently hit the mainstream and is gaining widespread popularity, especially among younger cannabis users. That said, it is still quite misunderstood, and there’s a level of controversy around it, especially when it comes to medical concerns.

So, to shed a little light on the matter, we prepared this guide, detailing everything there is to know about dabbing, from what it is to the effects of dabbing on the brain. 

Without further ado, let’s get right to it.

What Is Dabbing?

Dabbing refers to the process of inhaling the vapour emitted from a highly concentrated form of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that produces the sought-after high).

Dabs are typically made by pouring butane over dried cannabis flower. THC, along with other cannabinoids present in cannabis, dissolves into the butane, which is then filtered out to create a gummy paste. This process is quite dangerous due to the flammability of butane, so this process should only be carried out by an experienced person in a safe environment.

The gummy substance (the dab) is then heated with a lighter or blow torch to release a vapour that the user inhales. Dabbing can also be done using hash oil. This is pretty common among younger cannabis users since hash oil does not produce a telltale smell when smoked.

You should note that dabs are much stronger than cannabis flower, which on average has a THC content of about 12-13 percent. The average dab contains about 50 percent THC, with some samples reaching 80 percent.

How Does Dabbing Affect Your Brain?

A Much Stronger High

Due to the high THC concentration of the dab, dabbing produces a much stronger high than your regular blunt. THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure. This causes your brain to release high dopamine levels, which typically gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling.

When you dab, THC gets to your bloodstream quickly, making you high in seconds. The high then peaks in about 30 minutes, with effects lasting up to six hours, depending on the cannabis strain from which the dab was extracted.

A Much Stronger High

Dabbing Might Distort Your Thinking

Cannabis could cloud your sense of judgment. These effects are more severe in dabbing due to the high THC concentration. In most cases, dabbing:

  1. Heightens your senses
  2. Impairs your motor skills, making you less responsive
  3. Distorts your sense of time, and
  4. Lowers your inhibitions

Dabbing May Affect Your Mental Health

Despite its popularity, not everyone’s dabbing experience is pleasant. Dabbing can often leave you panicked, anxious, afraid, or paranoid. It might also raise your chances of clinical depression or worsen the symptoms of any underlying mental disorders you might have. The high THC doses in dabs may also cause you to hallucinate.

Dabbing Might Lead to Addiction

Using highly concentrated THC products significantly increases your chances of getting addicted. This may result in adverse withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit. And in most cases, you might need professional help. The general signs of dab addiction include:

  1. Craving dabs
  2. Continually dabbing even though it is causing negative effects on your relationships or work
  3. Attempting to quit or cut down on dabbing but being unsuccessful
  4. Being unable to fulfill your responsibilities due to dab abuse
  5. Increasing the size of your dabs due to an increased tolerance
  6.  Still dabbing even after having adverse effects such as anxiety, paranoia, or depression

Dabbing Might Lower Your IQ

Research suggests that teens who dab might experience an IQ drop when they are older. In a study involving more than 1000 individuals in New Jersey, researchers conducted IQ tests on the participants twice when they were 13 and again when they were 38. They also inquired about the participants’ drug use through the research period.

About 5% of the participants had started using cannabis in their teens. Those who used cannabis at least four times a week during their teens and continued using it throughout their lives experienced an IQ drop of about eight points.

The effects of dabbing or using cannabis in general on an individual’s IQ are still unclear. But dabbing in your teens leaves you more vulnerable to adverse effects on your brain.

Dabbing May Increase Your Cannabis Tolerance

This is one of the most prevalent effects of dabbing. The higher-than-average THC concentration in dabs significantly increases your tolerance over time. This basically means that you will have to use more to achieve the desired effects. In time, you might not experience the pleasurable effects of using cannabis with regular unconcentrated cannabis products.

Dabbing May Cause Adverse Short-term Cognitive Effects

The short-term effects of dabbing on cognition include:

  1. Impaired memory
  2. Confusion
  3. Impaired coordination
  4. Fatigue
  5. Impaired learning
  6. Difficulty making decisions
  7. Increased reaction time
  8. Impaired concentration
  9. Difficulty judging distances

In some cases, dabbing may trigger psychotic episodes like delusions and hallucinations. 

Is Dabbing Really Good for You?

Despite its numerous potential adverse effects on the brain, dabbing has some benefits, too. For starters, a dab is generally much more potent and cleaner than your regular joint or vaporizer. And although medical marijuana patients do not usually use it, it might be a more efficient mode of cannabis consumption for acute symptoms because it is fast-acting and effective.

The Bottom Line

As dabbing becomes more popular, researchers are on their toes trying to fully figure out the effects of dabbing on the brain. And although it has some pretty negative effects, most of these effects are limited to adolescent users. That said, you might still get hooked or experience the adverse effects of using too much cannabis regardless of your age.


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