Dabbing, Blasting, and Oil Rig: The New Language of Marijuana

June 15, 2015

Dabbing, Blasting, and Oil Rig: The New Language of Marijuana

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP

A new potentially dangerous way of preparing and inhaling a highly concentrated marijuana product is becoming more popular.

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP

These authors describe “dabbing,” a new method of using marijuana, and its possible risks. A highly concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) product can be prepared by passing butane through a glass or steel tube packed with dried cannabis (a practice known as “blasting”). Once the butane evaporates or is otherwise removed, the remaining product (butane hash oil; BHO) can reach THC concentrations of up to 80%. BHO (which can be produced in a number of forms) is then vaporized by heating it to very high temperatures and inhaled (“dabbing”) through a glass water pipe apparatus (called an “oil rig”).

Blasting is appealing because it requires few resources and can be used to salvage less potent portions of the marijuana plant. Instructional videos are widely available online (warning: contains profanity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i464hZm4kM). Butane is highly volatile: fires, explosions, and severe burns have been attributed to this process. Dabbing can be dangerous because blow torches are often used to vaporize the BHO. There are virtually no data on the long-terms risks of inhaling concentrated BHO or the byproducts (solder, rust, benzene) produced from heating the titanium rod (“nail”) that holds the BHO during vaporization.


The authors caution that we know relatively little about dabbing and blasting, and the sole published study (drawn from a sample of experienced marijuana users) did not find an increased risk of harm compared with use of marijuana in flower form. Until more data emerge, the authors recommend educating young people about the possible dangers of these techniques, while avoiding hyperbole (e.g., calling dabbing “the crack of pot”).

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP at time of publication Grant / Research support Consolidated Health Plans Editorial boards Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews; JAMA Pediatrics; Neinstein’s Textbook of Adolescent and Young Adult Health Care, Associate Editor


Reader Comments (1)

John W Cooper Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, outpatient

Excellent information. YouTube link is informative. Though medicinal cannabis and recreational marijuana are reasonably benign, it's good to be aware of the more sinister side of cannabis misuse. Nothing replaces a knowledgeable and concerned primary provider who can offer a young person some direction.

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