Marijuana concentrates are substances that have been refined from the marijuana plant to produce a high THC content, increasing the risk of adverse side effects.

Marijuana concentrates have become increasingly popular as alternatives to smoking marijuana in its natural state. Many individuals who use marijuana in this form may not be aware of the dangers associated with consuming such a high concentration of the drug. Marijuana concentrates may produce more intense and disturbing side effects for some individuals.

What Are Marijuana Concentrates?

Marijuana concentrates are substances that have been refined from the marijuana plant to produce a highly potent, THC-rich product usually in the form of an oily or waxy substance. A tiny bit of marijuana concentrate can produce a similar or greater level of intoxication than the most potent of marijuana buds. Whereas the levels of THC in high grade marijuana are generally 20%, marijuana concentrates can range from 40-80%. It often has an intense mind-and-body-altering effect because of its high THC content relative to the typical volumes of marijuana buds consumed.

While THC concentrates have been around for a very long time, the growing legalization of marijuana at the state level has helped skyrocket their popularity. The marijuana industry provides a diverse array of marijuana concentrate products available to the general public in states with legal recreational marijuana sales.

What Do Marijuana Concentrates Look Like?

Marijuana concentrates are similar in appearance to honey or butter and are either brown or gold in color. They vary in thickness and color based on the production method and are sometimes prepackaged in vape pens or concentrated marijuana e-cigarettes.

Types of Marijuana Concentrates

There are many different types of concentrates that vary based on the specific strain of marijuana and the THC extraction method. THC extraction refers to the production process whereby the psychoactive ingredient, THC, is purified from the marijuana plant.

Common types of marijuana concentrates & their street names:

  • Butane honey oil:  Butane honey oil, or honey oil for short, gets its name from its amber, somewhat honey-like appearance.
  • Butter wet wax: Butter wet wax, or “budder,” refers to marijuana concentrates that are slightly more viscous and moister than honey.
  • Butane hash oil: Butane hash oil and any name containing the word “butane” is named based on the preparation method. Butane is a volatile chemical and is implicated in several THC concentrate production accidents.
  • Shatter wax: Shatter wax refers to shatter marijuana concentrate that has cooled and hardened, resulting in a substance that looks similar to hard candy.
  • Dabs: Dabs are one of the most popular nicknames for marijuana concentrates. The name is derived from the application of a “dab” of concentrate to the tip of a piece of metal which is then quickly burned and inhaled through a pipe.
  • Live resin: Live resin refers to a type of marijuana concentrate that maintains the original properties of the plant strain (e.g., flavor and fragrance).

How Are Marijuana Concentrates Abused?

Marijuana concentrate differs from dried plant products in that it can be used in a variety of ways. The concentrate is used to create intoxicating sodas, cakes, “gummy” candies, cookies (even Gluten-free versions) and brownies, to name a few. These products often do not have the strong and familiar smell of marijuana buds. However, they are just as potent, if not more so.

Marijuana vape pens are also a popular way to smoke concentrate. These small, electronically powered devices house a small reservoir containing THC oil. Vape pens can be very discreet and portable. Shatter concentrate is consumed in what are called “shatter rigs” which are a type of specialized bong. Dabbing is perhaps the most direct way to consume marijuana concentrate. There is a growing conversation on the dangers of smoking dabs, which is accomplished by quickly heating marijuana concentrate and inhaling the resulting product.

The Dangerous Effects of Concentrated Marijuana

Are there dangers associated with consuming concentrated marijuana? The simple answer is yes, consuming marijuana concentrates can be dangerous. When consuming foods that have been prepared with marijuana concentrate (e.g., gummies, brownies, chocolate bars, etc.), the effects are not felt until close to 45 minutes after ingestion, as the body must absorb the marijuana through digestion. Thinking that the drug is not working, some individuals will consume even more than the recommended dose which can lead to dizziness, heart palpitations and paranoia.

The side effects of marijuana concentrate range from harmless to quite severe. Because they contain such a high concentration of THC and other active ingredients found in marijuana plants, the amount needed to feel side effects can be very small.

Some of the effects of smoking dabs & consuming edibles:

The effects of smoking dabs and consuming edibles can be extremely powerful and disorienting and may include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling out of one’s body
  • Poor judgment
  • Problems with coordination

On top of that, the dangers of consuming concentrated marijuana are very similar to consuming other forms of the drug, including impacts to mental health, athletic performance, driving and daily life.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Abad-Santos, Alexander. “The Amateur’s Guide to Dabs.” The Atlantic, May 15, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2019.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse A DEA Resource Guide.” 2017. Accessed September 14, 2019.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “What You Should Know About Marijuana Con[…]es/ Honey Butane Oil.” July 10, 2019. Accessed September 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Is Dabbing Dangerous?” December 14, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Know the Risks of Marijuana.” May 17, 2019. Accessed September 14, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.