Concentrated cannabis oil: The Good and The Bad
I hope everyone is doing well, mentally, and physically, as we continue to navigate this journey with COVID-19. It hasn’t been easy for anyone, that’s for sure. But of one thing I am certain – this too shall pass.
In the meantime, I thought I could shine a light on an often misunderstood topic: concentrated cannabis oils, also known as “concentrates”.
“Concentrates” are extremely potent forms of cannabis oil. They contain THC concentrations above 75% and are often found above 90% (very, very strong). If you were to compare concentrates to the actual cannabis flower, you’d find that most flowers contain THC concentrations between 15 and 30%.
Concentrated cannabis oil, like the cannabis plant itself, can go by many names: dabs, budder, shatter, wax, sauce, BHO, and crumble…the list goes on and on. The name of the final product is often descriptive of the oil. A shatter, for example, is hard like peanut brittle, and a sauce tends to have a “soupier” consistency.
These days, most cannabis manufacturers extract cannabis oil by a process called Supercritical CO2 Extraction. The crystals that cover the leaves of the cannabis flowers (called trichomes) are extracted using high-pressure CO2 molecules, whereas the CO2 molecule eventually evaporates at the end of the extraction process, thus leaving a pure cannabis oil that is free of solvents. After additional processing, the oil that is produced varies in texture and color but is always very, very strong.
These oils are “vaped” using a vaporizer specifically designed for these oils. One puff of a concentrated oil can equate to 1/2 to 3/4 of an entire rolled cannabis joint. That’s a very high dose of THC and other cannabinoids delivered directly to the bloodstream at a rapid rate. The immediate effects of such a concentrated high is appealing to many users and, as you can imagine, has great potential for abuse, specifically by teens and young people who do not have the maturity level to understand the substances they often choose to consume.
High levels of THC can increase anxiety as it throws the endocannabinoid system off balance. Young people with mental health issues may unknowingly cause an increase in negative symptoms, which can even lead to more serious mental illnesses such as depression.
Even with the potential for abuse, concentrates can still offer significant medical value to patients with a high tolerance. Many cannabis users have used it for decades and may require higher dosages to relieve chronic symptoms like pain. Concentrates are an excellent delivery system that can allow patients to inhale 1 or 2 puffs of a concentrated oil instead of smoking a much larger amount of flower.
Used or administered properly, patients may find a benefit when using a concentrate to treat:
Multiple Sclerosis flares
Chronic and/or extreme pain
Used improperly and on a chronic basis, extremely high doses of concentrated cannabis oil may produce detrimental effects on the developing brain – a point upon which industry studies have not yet drawn a conclusion, but also a point on which both parents and health care providers need to continue to educate themselves. In the world of cannabis, in fact, education is key, as new delivery systems are introduced from time to time.
For further information on how concentrated cannabis oils are produced and administered, pick up my book The Cannabis Prescription: How to Use Medical Marijuana to Reduce or Replace Pharmaceutical Medications.