Every morning starts with a bit of excitement as I take a look at the emails that have accumulated overnight. Besides the usual junk, there are always some interesting questions, sometimes really offbeat such as “is it true that kids are getting high by smoking bed bugs?” I’ve learned in this business to never dismiss anything out of hand, no matter how absurd it sounds. Bed bugs in beds of course are a real problem and I have looked into the matter quite extensively. But in all my dealings with bed bugs I had never heard of the little critters going up in smoke to produce a high. On the other hand, insects do produce a host of chemicals, mostly to ward off predators. So, could it be that someone had discovered that bed bugs produce some hallucinogenic substance? After all, bufo toads produce bufotenine, a known hallucinogen.
It didn’t take long to track down the source of the bed bug story. I quickly found a video that purported to be a news story about the dangers of smoking bed bugs. Although it looked authentic, I checked a little further and the video turned out to be a cleverly altered version of a real news report that focused on the dangers of butane hash oil, or BHO. A bit of judicious editing and a new voice-over script and presto, hash oil becomes bed bug oil. While smoking bed bug oil is a fabrication of someone’s fertile imagination, butane hash oil is real. And it comes loaded with risk.
The cannabis plant, like all plants, is a fascinating chemical factory. In addition to the famed tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it produces numerous other compounds, some of which can also contribute to the high when weed is smoked. Cannabis users are always looking for ways to improve their high, and with butane hash oil they seem to have met with success. The idea is to extract the active ingredients from the plant in the most efficient manner and produce a potent concentrate that can be smoked. Just take some chopped up leaves, pack them into a glass tube, pump some butane through, collect the extract that dribbles out and heat it to drive off excess butane. You are then left with is a thick oil that resembles honey or wax. Heat a bit of this and inhale the smoke given off, and off you go.
As the Brylcreem ad used to say, just a little dab will do ya. But this kind of dabbing is dangerous. Besides the possible health hazards of inhaling concentrated THC, the process of extracting the oil has caused numerous injuries and explosions. Butane is a highly flammable solvent and many an amateur has set himself on fire when evaporating the excess solvent. There is even the possibility of ending up with a roomful of butane vapour which can then be set off by a spark. Presto, you have a sudden going away of things from the place where they have been, or in other words, an explosion. Smoking bed bugs would be safer than playing with butane hash oil.