Though hashish first came to America in the 1970s, butane hash oil (BHO), or “dabbing” as it is often referred to colloquially, exploded in popularity during the early 2000s. BHO is a concentrated form of cannabis, with the psychotropic major constituent of cannabis plant tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) sometimes reaching 80 percent concentration or higher. BHO’s proponents assert that it’s safer than flower cannabis because its potency prevents users from consuming more cannabis. Others, opposed to BHO argue that the high THC concentration may actually be harmful to people in many ways. By comparing BHO to the standard cannabis flower, a more substantial context emerges about the safety of the product. The side effects and risks associated with Butane Hash Oil should be considered when evaluating its safety.
Comparing BHO to Cannabis Flowers
Thanks to selective breeding techniques, the THC concentration in cannabis thus its potency has risen since the 1970s. This increase was fueled by market trends demanding similar high potency extract products like edibles and concentrates such as BHO. It’s difficult to delve into specifics of every product available, as individual state markets have different standards for their products, but one Rand Corporation study in the state of Washington attempted to analyse potency differences available in the state’s legal cannabis products. They discovered that a cannabis flower’s average THC potency was 20.6%, but extracts’ average THC content was 68.7%. That being said, 66.6% of all sales measured were for flower cannabis, not extracts. These are averages of both potency and market preference will of course vary by location, but this points to a trend that indicates extracts are more than triple the potency of cannabis flowers. This in and of itself maybe cause for alarm, as increased THC consumption possesses several inherent risks.
Risks Associated with High Doses of THC
THC studies have only been conducted in the last several years due to cannabis’ legal status. While some factors can be easily quantified, there are still many questions that remain open. For example, THC affects different people in different ways. Unlike alcohol, which can be standardized into measurable and quantifiable units, there is no standard THC unit to quantify the effects on users and the closest that exists is potency in general. So all the risks associated with THC may vary from one individual to another. With that in mind, there are various dangers associating with high levels of THC consumption.
A 2009 study in Switzerland found that beyond a certain threshold, THC consumption could impair motor functions similarly to alcohol.
This presents mental risks as well as a very clear physical risk for situations like driving, since THC consumption’s increased. Studies have shown correlations between high THC consumption and addiction as well as psychosis. Other studies indicate that some of these risks can be mitigated when THC is combined with CBD, however with extracts this is not always the case. Because of the higher THC concentration in butane hash oil, there is a high risk of negative side effects. Before using BHO, consider the risks associated with high THC concentrations.
Physical Side Effects of Butane Hash Oil Consumption
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to make sure that any sold food or medication is safe for consumption. However, because cannabis is still federally illegal, BHO safety requirements fall to individual states. Consequently, safety standards vary between states. That’s why it’s important to examine any physical risks associated with BHO, regardless of their possibility. The first comes from amateur extraction procedures. Following cannabis liberalization in Colorado, one study found that burns associated with amateur cannabis extraction rose thanks to unqualified individuals attempting BHO production without the proper training or equipment. Cannabis extraction is a laborious process, but most people prefer to leave it to professionals. More concerning is the rise of lung injuries associated with BHO usage. Repeated BHO consumption appears to present symptoms that are equivalent to pneumonia in otherwise healthy individuals. It’s difficult to determine if these injuries are exclusive to BHO or if comparable products would cause similar injuries. The harmful effects of smoking have been known for a long time, and similar evidence has been indicated with vaping as well.
With this in mind, it may be the case that all forms of smoking or vaping may be harmful to the lungs, not just BHO related inhalation.
Is BHO Safe?
The answer is not necessarily clear. Making BHO at home is the riskiest method as working with flammable chemicals has increased the number of burn victims. It’s not possible to compare BHO and concentrated THC consumption to other similar products due to insufficient data. Evidence suggests that BHO may exacerbate the risks associated with THC consumption in general, but more data is needed to confirm that this is the case. Similar to alcohol, users should determine their tolerance to THC extracts and set limits in terms of consumption and risks. The same intoxicants are present in both products; it is up to the individual to decide.