Is Butane Hash Oil More Dangerous Than Other Forms of Cannabis?

Is Butane Hash Oil More Dangerous Than Other Forms of Cannabis?

Butane hash oil is the common term for a cannabis product, hash oil, made with a chemical process based on the use of butane gas. Public health officials in the U.S. have already established the potentially lethal dangers associated with making this cannabis product in an uncontrolled environment. In a study published in May 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY) used information submitted by cannabis users to investigate other potential dangers associated with butane hash oil and compare those dangers to the risks of using marijuana. The considered risks included the odds of developing the symptoms of cannabis use disorder (cannabis addiction and/or cannabis abuse).

Butane Hash Oil

Hash oil, or hashish oil, is one of the three major forms of the plant-based drug cannabis (along with marijuana and hashish). It is made by using some sort of chemical solvent to extract and concentrate THC and other active ingredients from cannabis plants. Makers of butane hash oil use butane, a commonly available gas, as a solvent source. Common reasons for preferring hash oil to other forms of cannabis include the drug’s relatively high potency, relatively undetectable smell and easy transportability. In addition to its widespread availability, butane often plays a role in the production of hash oil because it typically leaves fairly minor amounts of residue in batches of the drug at the end of the manufacturing process.

As its common use in cigarette and household lighters strongly suggests, butane is a highly flammable substance. In addition, once fumes from the gas build up within a given space, they fade away relatively slowly. Together, these facts make the production of butane hash oil a highly dangerous endeavor, especially in the uncontrolled conditions typically used by illicit drug manufacturers. In the presence of ignition sources such as cigarettes, cigarettes butts, gas stoves, plugged-in electrical appliances and even the static electricity generated by clothing, the butane used to create hash oil can produce potentially lethal fires or explosions.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Despite their growing reputation as “safe” drugs, marijuana and other forms of cannabis are firmly linked to risks for the development of diagnosable cases of abuse or addiction in a range of populations, including casual users (who typically have the lowest relative risks), teenage users (who have a much higher level of risk) and habitual or daily users of any age (who have the highest level of risk). The cannabis use disorder diagnosis was created by the American Psychiatric Association in May 2013 as part of a more general reorganization of the definitions for substance abuse and substance addiction. People who receive this diagnosis may have simultaneous symptoms of cannabis addiction and non-addicted cannabis abuse, symptoms related only to cannabis addiction or symptoms only related to cannabis abuse.

Is Butane Hash Oil More Dangerous?

In the study published in Addictive Behaviors, the SUNY Albany researchers used questionnaire information gathered from 357 people to determine the perceived level of risk associated with the intake of butane hash oil, as well as the reported level of actual drug-related harm resulting from the use of this particular form of cannabis. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know how butane hash oil use compares to the use of marijuana. Each study participant submitted information on relevant topics that included lifetime involvement in any form of cannabis intake, involvement in butane hash oil intake, exposure to the potential dangers of making butane hash oil and self-defined risks for developing butane hash oil-related symptoms of cannabis addiction (including increasing tolerance to the drug and withdrawal symptoms when intake drops or falls off rapidly).

After reviewing the questionnaire results, the researchers concluded that, among the study participants, the self-reported rates of accidental harm associated with the use of butane hash oil were not statistically different from the self-reported rates of accidental harm associated with the use of marijuana. However, they also concluded that the participants who used butane hash oil felt that they developed heightened tolerance to the effects of cannabis, in addition to feeling that they developed more prominent symptoms of withdrawal when they did not receive their accustomed amount of the drug.

Overall, the researchers concluded that, based on the reports of the study participants, use of butane hash oil may come with an increased chance of developing a diagnosable case of cannabis use disorder (particularly, cannabis addiction). They specifically note that the cannabis-using participants self-identified this form of the drug as particularly risky to use. Somewhat contradictorily, they also note that intake of butane hash oil, once confined largely to people using cannabis for medical reasons, now apparently occurs among larger segments of the cannabis-consuming public.

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