Butane Hash Oil (BHO) Risks

What is Butane Hash Oil?

Butane hash oil (BHO) is a potent cannabis extraction and concentrated version of hash oil. The highly volatile solvent butane is used to extract THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—the primary psychoactive component of the cannabis plant—from either marijuana or hash to produce BHO, a substance with as much as 90% THC and able to deliver a stronger and more powerful high than many other cannabis products.1

  • After alcohol, marijuana is the most widely used psychotropic substance in the United States.2
  • The production of concentrated cannabis products and THC extracts has become increasingly prevalent in parallel with the rise of legal recreational and medical cannabis.3
  • Yellowish, solvent-extracted concentrates may have a gooey consistency and appearance somewhat similar to that of honey and may be referred to as butane hash oil, BHO, propane hash oil (if propane is used as the solvent), or honey oil.
  • Additional street names for BHO are amber, glass, wax, shatter, dab, budder, and butter.2,4
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that THC extractions such as BHO may be as much as four times stronger, in terms of THC concentrations, than traditional marijuana. THC levels in marijuana concentrates may be as high as 40-80%.5
  • Smoking or vaping are among the most common methods of ingesting extractions like BHO. When it comes to vaping or “dabbing,” individuals will take a small amount of the substance and either put it into an e-cigarette, vaporizer (“vape”) pen, or a specialized bong or water pipe (sometimes called an oil rig), which utilizes a blowtorch-heated nail to vaporize the hash oil. Smoking BHO in this way is commonly referred to as dabbing. This method appeals to many because it may be easier to conceal since there is no smoke nor strong odor associated with it.5,6
  • Both the manufacturing and consumption of BHO can be highly dangerous and unpredictable. A review of several case study reports in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services indicated that, in relatively recent years, the use of high potency marijuana derivatives such as BHO has been on the rise, and was furthermore associated with number of incidents—including burns, traumatic lung injury, and adverse mental health symptoms—requiring emergency medical treatment.6

Hazards of Butane Hash Oil

Butane hash oil can be dangerous—not only just the process of extracting it from dried marijuana plant materials, but also its use. Some of the risks associated with butane hash oil include:

  • Explosion or fire: Butane is a highly volatile, flammable substance. Historically, unsophisticated production techniques have been associated with explosions, structural fires, and burn injuries.7,9
  • Toxicity: To varying extents given the potential for different manufacturing processes, some butane may remain in BHO samples after extraction is complete. The high-temperature vaporization involved with dabbing may result in several toxic degradation products, including methacrolein (a potential pulmonary irritant) and benzene (itself another pulmonary irritant, and potential carcinogen).8,9
  • Psychosis: In certain individuals, marijuana use may be associated with anxiety, paranoia, and other symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations and delusions. The risk of psychotic reactions may be higher when regular use of high potency products—such as high THC extracts or concentrates like BHO—are involved.2,6
  • Addiction: Marijuana is an addictive substance. Like many abused substances, the drug is associated with physiological dependence and withdrawal and, furthermore, may lead to the development of problematic patterns of use common to substance use disorders. The high concentrations of THC in substances like butane hash oil may raise the risk for developing an addiction.2,11

Cannabis Dependence, Withdrawal, and Addiction

High THC products may also be associated with a greater risk of developing a cannabis use disorder.2 In other words, using more potently intoxicating forms of marijuana, like butane hash oil, may make addiction a more likely eventuality. When marijuana is consistently used in high enough doses, dependence may develop in association with reduced production of and sensitivity to our own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.11 And, though this physiological dependence isn’t entirely analogous to addiction, it is one of several important diagnostic criteria for cannabis addiction.

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that recent research data points to roughly 30% of those who currently use marijuana as having a cannabis use disorder. Additional studies indicate that nearly 1 out of every 10 people who ever use marijuana will eventually become dependent on it.11
  • People who develop significant physical dependence after heavy, prolonged cannabis use may be at risk of experiencing withdrawal when attempts are made to slow or stop continued use. Some of the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal may include anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, anger, insomnia, disturbing dreams, restlessness, and decreased appetite. Symptoms commonly arise within 3 days of quitting, peak within a week, and persist for 1-2 weeks before resolving.12 Among heavy users as well as those individuals enrolled in treatment for cannabis use disorders, more than half and as many as 95% have reported experiencing some form of cannabis withdrawal.12

Options for Treatment

In 2015, roughly 4 million people in the U.S. met criteria for a marijuana use disorder, and approximately 138,000 of those people sought treatment for their problematic marijuana use.11

While presently, there are no medications approved to specifically treat cannabis use disorders, behavioral therapeutic approaches to addiction management—including cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement—have helped many in recovery.2,13

  • It’s been estimated that the average adult seeking help for a cannabis use disorder has used marijuana products nearly every day for more than a decade, and may have made attempts to quit more than six times already.13
  • Polysubstance addictions, as well as psychiatric comorbidities (or dual diagnoses), are common in people with marijuana use disorders. This may be particularly true in an adolescent population.13
  • A combination of medication and behavioral therapy for such additional mental health issues may help reduce continued marijuana use.13
  • Rehabilitation programs may take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the circumstances and needs of the particular person.
  • As much as is possible, comprehensive addiction treatment programs will be tailored to each person based on their unique needs; therefore, no two treatment experiences are likely to be the same. Our admission navigators can provide information to help families and individuals determine the right level of care and support.

Why Greenhouse Treatment Facility?

Greenhouse Treatment Center and its team of licensed, experienced treatment professionals will implement a plan of care tailored to each patient’s needs. If you find that you’re struggling with the misuse of butane hash oil, marijuana, or other substances, treatment options are available. Together we can help you embark on your long-term recovery journey today.

References

  1. Miller, S. C., Fiellin, D. A., Rosenthal, R. N., & Saitz, R. (2019). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Marijuana—Drug Facts.
  3. World Health Organization. (2018). WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence—Extracts and tinctures of cannabis.
  4. Bell, C., Slim, J., Flaten, H. K., Lindberg, G., Arek, W., & Monte, A. A. (2015). Butane Hash Oil Burns Associated with Marijuana Liberalization in ColoradoJournal of medical toxicology: official journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology11(4), 422–425.
  5. United States Department of Justice—Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). What You Should Know About Marijuana Concentrates—Also Known as THC Extractions.
  6. Valenzuela, R. G., Schneberk, T., Mallon, W. K., Sterling, G. (2015). Prehospitalization Ramifications of Butane Hash Oil Synthesis and Use. Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 2015, 9(40).
  7. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Blog Team. (2015, December 14). Is Dabbing Dangerous?
  8. Anderson, R. P., & Zechar, K. (2019). Lung injury from inhaling butane hash oil mimics pneumoniaRespiratory medicine case reports26, 171–173.
  9. Meehan-Atrash, J., Luo, W., Strongin, R. M. (2017). Toxicant Formation in Dabbing: The Terpene Story. American Chemical Society (ACS) Omega, 2017, 2, 9, 6112-6117.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Marijuana—Letter from the Director.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Is Marijuana Addictive?
  12. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders.

 

About The Contributor
Scot Thomas, M.D.
Senior Medical Editor, American Addiction Centers
Dr. Thomas received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. During his medical studies, Dr. Thomas saw firsthand the multitude of lives impacted by struggles with substance abuse and addiction, motivating... Read More
Concerned about your
drug or alcohol use?
Take our addiction quiz today. It's fast, confidential, and free.