What Is Shatter? | Dangers and Shatter Addiction

You may have heard the terms “dab drug”, “dabbing”, or “shatter” recently, and with the seemingly never-ending list of street drug names, it can be hard to keep up with them all.

This article dives into what exactly is “shatter”, what is it used for, and what are the dangers and risks of this relatively new drug. 

What Is Shatter?

Shatter is a butane hash oil (BHO) cannabis extract, with a typical THC content of 80 percent. This makes it a highly potent and powerful derivative of marijuana. It is legal for recreational use in certain states such as Colorado and Washington and can be found in medical marijuana dispensaries in other states. 

Its name comes from its translucent, glass-like appearance, and its consistency which tends to crack or shatter when broken apart. It is typically gold or amber in color. This appearance is achieved through specific processing techniques involving solvents like butane.

The concentrated compounds in shatter, like THC and CBD, offer the effects of cannabis in a highly concentrated form that can be “dabbed” or vaporized. The method of “dabbing” involves flash vaporization off of a specialized water pipe called a “dab rig”. A small pinch of shatter is applied to the dab nail, then ignited to heat the concentrate and produce a potent vapor that delivers powerful and instant effects.

Shatter can range in potency depending on the chemical composition of the source plant and extraction techniques and equipment used. Shatter extracts may test upward of 80% to 90% THC concentration compared to cannabis flowers which tends to sit around 30%.

How is Shatter Made?

Shatter is a form of marijuana wax, derived from butane hash oil. Some versions of shatter can contain as much as 90 percent THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) making it five times the potency of unrefined, smoked, cannabis. 

Similar to dab wax, shatter is extracted from cannabis plants, the difference however comes after the initial extraction process. In dab wax, the BHO is left alone to solidify, whereas in shatter the BHO is shaken and stirred as it is left to cool. This process results in a solid cannabis concentrate with a translucent appearance. Despite a difference in process, the effects of dabs and shatter are more or less the same, as they are both derived from BHO.

How Is Shatter Made?

Shatter is a form of marijuana wax, derived from butane hash oil. Some versions of shatter can contain as much as 90 percent THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) making it five times the potency of unrefined, smoked, cannabis. 

Similar to dab wax, shatter is extracted from cannabis plants, the difference however comes after the initial extraction process. In dab wax, the BHO is left alone to solidify, whereas in shatter the BHO is shaken and stirred as it is left to cool. This process results in a solid cannabis concentrate with a translucent appearance. Despite a difference in process, the effects of dabs and shatter are more or less the same, as they are both derived from BHO.

Uses and Side Effects of Shatter

Because of shatter and other concentrated cannabis products’ potency, these versions of cannabis can be much more dangerous or risky to use.

The process of production can also sometimes lead to remnants of butane or other solvents used in the process, which are toxic. In addition to this, the high levels of THC can cause those who use it to have negative experiences such as overwhelming paranoia, anxiety, and drug-induced psychosis.

Shatter and other concentrated cannabis products provide a stronger and more immediate effect than unconcentrated products. Like other forms of concentrated cannabis, shatter contains high levels of THC and the effects will depend on the THC levels of the strain being ingested as well as one’s sensitivity to Cannabis in general.

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Side Effects of Shatter

It’s important to be mindful of the potential adverse effects that may come from consuming cannabis this way as shatter and other marijuana concentrate contain significantly high levels of THC.

Though THC may have some reported medical and therapeutic uses, overconsumption or abuse could lead to the unpleasant experiences mentioned above, such as anxiety, paranoia, or addiction.

Some people may develop a mental dependency on marijuana and its concentrates, feeling unable to control the urge to use the drug or that they need it to get through everyday life. This physical dependence can lead to tolerance, feeling the need to consume higher quantities to feel its effects. 

Possible withdrawal symptoms of marijuana concentrate include:

  • feeling fearful and anxious
  • feeling tense, confused, or irritable 
  • insomnia or difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • potential to alter normal brain communication, as the brain recognizes THC
  • heavy use can cause the brain to reduce its production of anandamide leading to issues with the brain’s communication network

The Dangers of Shatter Drug

Illegally distributed and purchased shatter generally comes from makeshift labs, where it has a large risk of not being made “properly”. Because shatter is made by removing butane gas through heating if it is not heated long enough and at the correct temperature, excess amounts of butane can remain in the mixture. This can be extremely toxic to individuals who smoke or “dab” the concentrate.

Some studies have also noted that the temperature of the heated surface used when dabbing may result in more toxins being released and inhaled. However, further research is needed to determine the degree of harm these toxins may cause.

The marijuana concentrates dispensed at legitimate medical dispensaries and by manufacturers in states where marijuana use is legalized, can be much safer as they only contain as much butane as specific regulations will allow.

Shatter may also be found in butter or oil to be used to make “edibles”. These edibles made with concentrates such as shatter can contain such extreme concentrations of THC that they may result in short-term poisoning when digested.

Other Dangers of Shatter

According to a 2014 Washington Post article, marijuana advocates point out that no one has died from ingesting marijuana as long as people are educated about the proper dosage. A member of the Marijuana Policy Project, Morgan Fox, likened the difference between shatter and regular marijuana to the difference between whiskey and beer. 

The danger arises when individuals develop a psychological dependency on this drug or without any experience attempt to make their own shatter. The process of making shatter involves flammable butane gas and can lead to home explosions caused by failed attempts to make butane hash oil. Particularly butane hash oil (BHO) which started out as dangerous “backyard-chemist” experiments that became infamous for causing numerous explosions and fatalities.

Addressing Shatter Dependency and Abuse

Receiving treatment for shatter dependency is possible. If you’re experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, you might want to consider an inpatient treatment program for detoxification. Our medically supervised detox program will help you safely withdraw from shatter in a spa-like, supportive environment.

At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, you have options. We provide our clients with a comprehensive, full continuum of care–from detoxification to residential treatment to outpatient programs, we’re here to help 

If you or a loved one have any questions about our detoxification program or additional treatment options, reach out to our admissions team today for more information.

National Center for Biotechnology Information–A New Method Of Cannabis Ingestion: The Dangers Of Dabs?