Feb 9, 2020 - Health

The super weed problem

Data: Online SurveyMonkey poll; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Online SurveyMonkey poll; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Most parents aren’t familiar with “dabbing,” a potentially dangerous way to inhale a highly concentrated dose of marijuana, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

By the numbers: Only the youngest adults we surveyed knew about dabbing, even though some health officials have been concerned about it for years.

How it works: Most Americans are clueless about dabbing, so here’s a brief primer:

  • A dab is a highly concentrated form of THC — the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. It looks like a small chunk of orange or brown-sugar-colored wax.
  • A dab pen looks like a vaping pen and costs anywhere from $20 to $200. It is an electronic device that emits less of a pot scent than smoking.
  • A joint is roughly 25% THC, but a dab can be up to 90%, which is why some experts say dabbing is to weed what hard alcohol is to beer.

By the numbers: Half of the 18- to 24-year-olds in our SurveyMonkey poll said they have either used a dab or know someone who has.

  • That number fell to 32% among 25- to 34-year-olds and continued to decline as respondents got older.

Done responsibly, THC concentrate — which also includes edibles and vaping, not just dabbing — can offer a more controlled dosage and fewer toxins than smoking.

But students may hit the dab oblivious to its THC levels.

  • Students have told me they find themselves slurring or wobbly, or even passing out from dabbing.

They say its use is exploding, especially among kids from wealthier areas who can afford the more expensive dabs and pens.

  • Teens like to hit the dab because it gets them super high, super fast.
  • Because there’s little odor or smoke, they can sneak it in bathrooms and at home. It also looks like a vape, so they can confess to just vaping, not dabbing, if they’re caught.

Academic research is mixed. At least one study found that dabbing is no more dangerous than smoking marijuana, but others have pointed to individual medical reports of “seizure-like activity” or hypertension.

  • Only 4% of respondents in our SurveyMonkey poll, and just 8% of 18- to 24-year-olds, said they think dabbing is the most dangerous way to consume marijuana.
  • Pluralities of old and young people alike said all forms of marijuana post equal risks to users' health, followed closely by those who thought vaping presented the greatest risk.

What we're watching: Majorities in every age group in our survey said they support legalizing marijuana for recreational use nationwide.

Methodology: The data is from a SurveyMonkey online poll conducted among adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data has been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over, including the 2016 vote.

The survey was conducted Jan. 24–28 among 2,726 adults. The modeled error estimate for this survey is ± 2.5  percentage points. 

Go deeper