Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes. In recent years, individuals have become creative with methods for extracting THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active mind-altering component, from the cannabis plant for a stronger and more powerful high. One such method involves using butane – a highly volatile, flammable, and toxic solvent – to extract the hash oil. The resulting gooey, yellowish substance often has the consistency of honey and is often called butane honey oil, or BHO. It is also called wax, shatter, dab, budder, and butter.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that BHO can be as much as four times stronger than traditional marijuana with a THC potency of 40-80 percent. BHO is often smoked. Typically, individuals will take a small amount, or a “dab,” of the substance and either put it into an e-cigarette, vaporizer (“vape”) pen, or a specialized bong called an oil rig, which uses a blowtorch to vaporize the hash oil. Smoking BHO in this way is generally referred to as dabbing. People often like this method as it is virtually undetectable; when smoked in this manner, it does not give off the distinctive skunk-like odor of weed. The high may also be more intense and less is needed to feel the effects.
The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) warns that BHO abuse is on the rise, leading to more incidents requiring emergency medical treatment. Both manufacturing and consuming BHO can be highly dangerous and unpredictable.
Hazards of BHO
Marijuana in and of itself can be a dangerous substance, as it alters the senses and perceptions, increases heart rate and blood pressure, decreases motivation and cognitive abilities, impairs short-term memory functions, and interferes with good judgment and decision-making abilities. Butane honey oil can be dangerous to extract and also hazardous to abuse. The following are risks associated with butane honey oil:
- Explosion or fire: Butane is highly flammable. Manufacturing BHO has sent many people to the hospital with severe burns, the LA Times Breathing in the fumes while extracting butane honey oil can be dangerous and toxic as well.
- Toxic effects: All of the butane may not be completely removed from the butane honey oil during extraction, and its residue can be neurotoxic, ABC 7 WXYZ
- Psychosis: In large amounts, marijuana may cause hallucinations, paranoia, and worsening schizophrenic symptoms, NIDA reports. Since BHO is so much more potent that traditional marijuana, the risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms may be higher. BHO may cause more severe psychological and physical side effects than marijuana itself. In addition, all possible risk factors for marijuana abuse are heightened when abusing it in this more potent extracted form of hash oil.
- Addiction: Marijuana is an addictive substance. A higher potency substance like butane honey oil may raise the risk for developing an addiction more rapidly.
Options for Treatment
NIDA reports that about a third of those who use marijuana likely suffer from marijuana addiction. Using more concentrated forms of the drug, like butane honey oil, may make a person more likely to battle addiction. When marijuana is abused in any form, the drug interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and makes some chemical changes that, over time, cause drug dependence, as the brain gets used to the alterations made by marijuana. If a person then attempts to stop using marijuana, withdrawal symptoms, including mood swings, depression, anxiety irritability, suppressed appetite, cravings, restlessness, physical discomfort, and sleep issues, occur and may last for a few days to a few weeks after stopping use. While these withdrawal symptoms are not typically considered to be life-threatening, it can still be helpful for individuals to participate in a formal detox, or medical detox, program where trained professionals can monitor both physical and mental health and minimize discomfort as much as possible.
After the drug has safely processed out of the body through detox, an addiction treatment program can provide the necessary support to sustain abstinence and promote long-term recovery. Treatment programs can be either inpatient or outpatient, depending on the circumstances and needs of the particular person. Care plans may include group and individual therapies, counseling sessions, educational programs, relapse prevention programs, the teaching of stress management techniques, and participation in a support group.
Addiction treatment programs are tailored to each person and family as needed; therefore, no two models will be exactly alike. Admission specialists can help families and individuals determine the right level of care and support.