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what is taking a dab

What is taking a dab

In slang, dab can be a highly concentrated marijuana extract, a type of hip-hop dance, or touching the ground with your foot while you ride a bicycle.

Doing any of these actions is called dabbing, and yes, you could feasibly do all three at once—not that we recommend it.

Where does dab come from?

Dab, in its regular use, is a noun or verb referring to light taps or strokes, but it has taken on a number of slang senses.

In the marijuana community, dabbing refers to a more intense form of consuming marijuana. It involves a person smoking hash oil burned with butane, resulting in nearly straight THC—and a very intense high. These cannabis extracts are referred to as dabs.

Though the ability to create dabs goes back for decades, dabbing only started catching on in the 2010s, at which point it got the slang name dabbing, based on how one dabs an amount of concentrate to smoke it. There is a serious concern that dabbing is far more dangerous than conventional pot smoking.

Dabbing also became a type of hip-hop dance in the 2010s. It originated in Atlanta, Georgia. The dance move involves extending one arm up and out while the other arm, parallel, covers at the elbow pit.

Dabbing was popularized by members of the Quality Control label, particularly Migos, whose 2015 song (later updated to “Look at My Dab”) brought the dance to a wider audience. Credit also goes to Skippa Da Flippa’s 2014 “How Fast.”

Dabbing went viral after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dabbed in the end zone in 2015. The dance went on to be performed by everyone from actor Betty White to kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

As for how the dance got dubbed dabbing, performer Bow Wow claims that the moves are supposed to replicate covering one’s mouth from the coughing fits that happen after one ingests a hash dab.

Then there’s the cyclist’s dabbing, which refers to the action of quickly putting your foot on the ground while you ride a bicycle, motorcycle, or mountain bike for balance. This version originates at least by the 1980s but tends to be cycling jargon.

How is dab used in real life?

People may dab to dance or to celebrate an accomplishment or win. Because hip-hop dabbing became so widespread in the mid-2010s, it’s sometimes mentioned as another example of appropriating Black culture. As a result in part, dabbing is often called out as something that is not cool, though it used to be.

Hash dabbing, on the other hand, is still highly sought after by its fans, and has become more popular as marijuana has become more legalized. If there’s one thing anyone needs to know about this version of dabbing, though, it’s that it is intense.

If you hear bicyclists talk about dabbing, all they mean is putting their feet on the ground while they ride. It is based on the idea of dab, or to lightly tap. It usually happens when someone is about to fall off their bike as a way of catching themselves. It may incur a penalty in cycling-based competitions.

More examples of dab:

“Experts are coming forward, however, to urge caution when creating and using dabs, as there are some dangers that come along with it.”
—Gina M. Florio, Bustle, August 2016

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Dab definition, to pat or tap gently, as with something soft or moist: The child dabbed his eyes with the handkerchief. See more.

What You Need to Know About Dabbing

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

When people hear the term “dabbing,” they might initially think of the dance move that is believed to have originated in the Atlanta rap scene and was later popularized by football star, Cam Newton, who made “the dab” his signature touchdown celebration. But the word dabbing also has a darker side.

In marijuana culture, dabbing refers to the dangerous process of consuming high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. And yet despite the dangers associated with the practice, it is growing in popularity, especially among teens.

What Are Dabs?

Dabs—also referred to as wax, shatter, amber, honeycomb, or budder—are concentrated versions of butane hash oil (BHO) which contains highly-concentrated levels of THC. This concentrated substance is produced through a chemical process using butane oil to extract the oils from the cannabis.

Research suggests that dabs or BHO can have a THC concentration of 80% in comparison to traditional cannabis, which has a concentration of about 10-15% THC. In fact, at a minimum dabs are as much as four times as strong as a joint. Plus, people who dab experience an intense high all at once rather than it gradually building over time.

Dabs are made by pouring butane over marijuana. This process allows the THC to leave the marijuana plant and dissolve into the butane leaving a gummy, somewhat solid product that contains high amounts of THC.

How Dabbing Works

Although marijuana is usually consumed by smoking joints and sometimes through vape pens, dabs are heated to an extremely high temperature and then inhaled. A specifically-designed glass bong commonly called an “oil rig” is used.

The dab is placed on an attached “nail” and a blow torch is used to heat the wax, which produces a vapor that can be inhaled. This type of ingestion means the effects of dabbing are felt immediately.

Many times people will dab by placing hash oil in vaping devices. Teens especially, use this method because it allows them to use hash oil with a very low chance that they will be caught because there is no smoke or distinct smell. Consequently, they often dab in public places, including at school.

Although the process of dabbing is not new, it is growing in popularity in the United States. Scientists attribute this growth to the commercial production of medical marijuana and the legalization of it in numerous states. Both of these factors have led to an increase in instructional videos online as well as a greater social media presence. Consequently, it is becoming more and more popular.

Why Dabbing Is Dangerous

Although some people believe that dabbing is a safer method of ingesting cannabis because it is so highly concentrated and the user only has to take one hit to get high, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply put, there is no safe level of drug use. Any drug—regardless of its purpose—carries some risk. And, dabs are no exception.

Dabbing Is Not the Same as Smoking

In fact, one study found that dabbing can lead to higher tolerance and worse withdrawal symptoms. What’s more, it is dangerous for users to assume that dabbing carries the same risks as smoking marijuana. Instead, most researchers say that dabbing is to marijuana what crack is to cocaine. There is simply no comparison between dabbing and smoking joints.

Harmful Side Effects

Dabbing also includes a number of dangerous side effects like a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, crawling sensations on the skin, loss of consciousness, and psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at Portland State University, found that dabbing also may expose users to elevated levels of toxins including carcinogenic compounds. What the scientists found is that the higher the temperature the substance is exposed to, the more carcinogens, toxins, and potential irritants that are produced.

This fact, in turn, puts users at a greater risk than other methods of getting high because there is a challenge in controlling the nail temperature. As a result, people who dab are being exposed to harmful chemicals including methacrolein and benzene. Likewise, another study found that more than 80% of marijuana extracts are contaminated with poisonous solvents and pesticides.

Dangers of Production

Another danger with dabbing is the fact that making hash oil is one of the riskiest aspects of dabbing. Keep in mind that dabs are made by blasting butane (or lighter fluid) through the marijuana plant. It is highly flammable and unstable. So, adding heat to a substance like this is extremely dangerous.

What’s more, after the process has been completed, any remaining butane is now in the form of gas in the room. As a result, the smallest spark—even one produced by static electricity—can cause an explosion. The risks are similar to that of a meth lab.

Consequently, there have been increasing reports of houses, apartment buildings, and other structures exploding during the extraction process. When this happens, the people involved are either killed or become burn victims with broken bones who need skin grafts and reconstructive surgery.

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line is that dabbing is a potentially dangerous process that comes with real risks to a person’s health and overall well-being. It also is very appealing to teens and young adults.

For this reason, parents and educators need to talk to young people about the risks associated with dabbing while stressing that just one hit can not only put them at risk for lifelong addiction but also can kill them if they take in too much.

Dabbing releases dangerous levels of THC into the body producing an extreme high, but the process is very dangerous. Find out why.