Shatter: An Overview

Shatter has become increasingly popular over the last decade as a marijuana concentrate product. Typically appearing like golden, glassy, and transparent plastic, this is becoming a more popular route of THC intake due to its high potency and ease of production, transportation, and use.

What Is Shatter?

Shatter is a THC concentrate that is made from marijuana plants through a butane extraction process. Known as butane hash oils, these types of marijuana products contain very high levels of THC with minimal amounts of CBD. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for the high produced by its use, and the levels of THC in shatter far exceed anything found in marijuana plants themselves. While THC content in the marijuana plant itself seems to top out at 20%, the amount of THC in shatter is around 80% but has been as high as 91%. This makes shatter, on average, at least 4 times as potent as the most potent marijuana plant available today. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Is Shatter Addictive?

Yes, shatter is addictive and it may be more addictive than traditional marijuana due to its much higher potency. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana does produce physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. The marijuana withdrawal syndrome may be less noticeable than other withdrawal syndromes since, due to its pharmacokinetics, the symptoms are usually extended over a period of weeks, and are thus less intense. While the shatter withdrawal syndrome may be identical to marijuana withdrawal due to the active ingredient in both being THC, the much higher concentrations of THC in shatter will produce more intense withdrawal symptoms. For example, if someone were to smoke a gram of marijuana per day, they would have a certain withdrawal intensity. Due to shatters higher THC content, if someone were to vape a gram of shatter per day, with all other factors being equal, then they would have much more intense withdrawal symptoms since they would be consuming substantially more THC per day. 6, 7, 8

Is Shatter Safe?

The short answer: no. For a more in-depth answer, we have to ask what is really meant by the word “safe”. Is shatter addictive? Absolutely. Can this lead to potentially unsafe situations? Yes. These are more obscure and indirect safety issues, but there are much more direct and immediate safety concerns when it comes to the safe use of shatter. Physical health concerns are much more apparent and the health outcomes from using shatter can be severe and sometimes life-threatening.

The first physical health concern to address is the pulmonary health issues related to vaping in general and shatter in particular. There are still a lot of unknowns about the health repercussions of vaping products. With minimal regulation in the vaping product industry, there can be a wide range of quality control and safety practices around vaping fluid purity. For shatter in particular this is relevant, as the butane extraction process can lead to a variety of compounds in the vape fluid that may become biologically volatile when vaporized. Known as “pyrolysis products” these compounds are a virtual unknown with regard to respiratory health. The short lifetime of the vaping industry means that long-term, clinically controlled studies simply have not had the time to obtain definitive evidence either way. That being said, there has been a surge of respiratory health conditions, collectively referred to as “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury” (EVALI), that have arisen since the introduction of vaping onto the scene just over a decade ago.

A complementary issue is a concern about the purity of the shatter product itself. The butane extraction process can introduce a variety of compounds into shatter, and terpenoid combustion can produce a variety of ozone and nitrous oxide compounds, although the behavior of these products during vaping is still unclear. Additionally, due to the intense competition in the marijuana/cannabis production market, there is always pressure to develop newer, more efficient ways to extract the most THC from cannabis with the least investment of time and resources. Coupled with the illegality of cannabis at the federal level, this has made it impossible to obtain patents for these extraction processes and, subsequently, made it improbable for the FDA to oversee these processes. The intense secrecy that is born out of the competition in the market, plus the lack of governmental oversight has made it possible for contaminants, adulterants, and toxicants to be present in shatter products. 4, 9, 10, 11, 12

Getting Help

While the exact risks of shatter addiction are unclear, addiction of any kind can take a heavy toll on someone’s life. Overcoming an addiction is possible, but it often requires help. Here at The Summit Wellness Group, we provide comprehensive treatment and care for those attempting to live a life free of addiction. We utilize the latest medical and psychological treatment approaches alongside the most effective holistic treatment modalities to provide the most comprehensive care possible. Recovery is possible, and it can begin today. The only requirement is the courage to ask for help and the willingness to accept help. Don’t wait, pick up the phone and begin the journey towards a life free from shatter.

References

  1. Drug Testing and Analysis: Potency of Δ9–Tetrahydrocannabinol and Other Cannabinoids in Cannabis in England in 2016 – Implications for Public Health and Pharmacology
  2. Missouri Medicine: The Problem with the Current High Potency THC Marijuana from the Perspective of an Addiction Psychiatrist
  3. Frontiers in Pharmacology: Current Therapeutic Cannabis Controversies and Clinical Trial Design Issues
  4. American Bar Association: A Review of the History, Pharmacology, and Legal Regulation of Vaporizers and Vape Products
  5. Way of Leaf: Average THC Strength Over Time – A 50-Year Look at Marijuana Potency
  6. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology: Cannabis Addiction and the Brain – A Review
  7. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice: Marijuana Dependence and Its Treatment
  8. WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence: Abuse and Dependence Potential of Cannabis Sativa and Nabiximols
  9. American Chemical Society Omega: Toxicant Formation in Dabbing – The Terpene Story
  10. Respiratory Medicine Case Reports: Lung Injury from Inhaling Butane Hash Oil Mimics Pneumonia
  11. Yale Medicine: E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI)
  12. Journal of Natural Products: Cannabis Inflorescence for Medical Purposes – USP Considerations for Quality Attributes

Author Information:

Phillippe Greenough
Phillippe Greenough
Phillippe is currently a contributing writer for The Summit Wellness Group. A recovering addict himself, he is leveraging his knowledge and experience to help others navigate the pitfalls of addiction, and to find help.
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