By Edmund Murphy

Last updated: 05 April 2024 & medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Shatter is a form of concentrated cannabis extract. By isolating terpenes and cannabinoids during the extraction process, shatter can be up to 90% pure THC, making them incredibly potent.

Key takeaways:

  • Shatter is normally “dabbed” instead of smoked, whereby small amounts of the drug are placed on a heated surface and the resulting smoke is inhaled directly.

  • There are several ways THC extracts are made but shatter is typically made using hydrocarbon and or butane solvents.

  • While cannabis concentrates such as shatter have been available and used for some time now, the exact effects have had little research published about them.

Shatter (Cannabis Concentrate)

Table of contents:

What is shatter?

Shatter is a cannabis (marijuana) concentrate that has a hard texture which breaks like glass when broken apart. It is sometimes referred to as Butane Hash Oil (BHO) due to the way it is made.[1] Butane is used to remove terpenes and cannabinoids in marijuana, leaving extremely potent THC behind in the form of a wax-like substance. 

The shatter drug has a fast-growing reputation for being an incredibly potent form of THC, with some samples containing over 80% pure THC.[2]

Shatter is normally “dabbed” instead of smoked, whereby small amounts of the drug are placed on a heated surface and the resulting smoke is inhaled directly.

What are other names for shatter?

Shatter is sometimes referred to as;

  • Wax

  • Shatter weed

  • Honey oil

  • Dab

  • BHO

  • Sap

  • Amber

  • Budder

What does shatter look like?

In its final form having been fully processed into butane hash oil, shatter looks like a large slab of translucent hard caramel or maple syrup that has an amber or honey color. The hardened butane hash oil is very brittle to the touch, hence the name “shatter”.[2] 

Shatter, cannabis concentrate, dab, shatter close up, black background

The extracted cannabis is broken into smaller amounts to be sold on the streets, often looking like amber flakes.

Depending on the extraction method, it can also resemble a gooey wax or honey-like substance or butter.

How is shatter made?

There are several ways THC extracts are made but shatter is typically made using hydrocarbon and or butane solvents. Butane is pushed through cannabis plants to strip out THC and CBD compounds in the form of oils.[3] These oils may be further refined through processes such as winterization (where fats and lipids are removed from the oil) or purging (residual solvents are removed in a centrifuge or vacuum chamber).

Once the oils are at the desired level of THC concentrate, they are hardened into the final shatter drug. 

There have been many accidental explosions caused by people attempting to DIY manufacture shatter.[4] The butane and other solvents used in the refinement process are highly flammable and can result in combustible gas when making cannabis concentrates. When made by professional drug chemists, solvents are kept in a closed loop to prevent them from entering the ambient environment.

How is shatter used?

Shatter is often taken in small quantities, with the glass substance broken into small shards and placed on a hot surface until inhalable smoke is produced.[2]

This method of use is often referred to as dabbing as shatter is dabbed in small amounts onto a hot surface. Dabbing can be done with glass pipes (similar to meth or crack pipes) or on metal objects like cans or spoons. It can also be used in vaporizers (an increasingly popular method of use) as well as put into food products like other marijuana edibles.

What is the difference between shatter and wax?

While shatter and wax are often used as interchangeable terms for cannabis concentrates and are both BHO, they do have subtle differences that set them apart. 

  • Shatter is harder and more brittle than wax

  • Wax is gooey with a texture similar to coconut oil

  • Shatter lasts longer and is more stable than wax

  • Shatter is more complicated to make

  • Wax is easier to use due to its consistency 

How does shatter affect you?

As shatter can contain more than 60% THC compared to the typical 20% found in normal marijuana, the psychoactive properties are far more intense. The high from shatter comes on quickly and can cause relaxation, mild euphoria, feelings of happiness, and other symptoms similar to marijuana use.[5]

It can also cause negative side effects related to THC, such as anxiety, paranoia, heightened blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, bloodshot eyes, and dehydration. The high from shatter can come on incredibly quickly and those not used to THC drugs may not be able to handle its effects.

Side effects of shatter

While cannabis concentrates such as shatter have been available and used for some time now, the exact effects have had little research published about them. Most reported effects are anecdotal in nature, with many users stating that the intense THC hit found in shatter is far stronger than regular weed and often more so than other cannabis concentrates. 

Common side effects of shatter include:[5]

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Increased heart rate

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Euphoria 

  • Mild visual and auditory hallucinations 

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

  • Sore throat

  • Tiredness

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of coordination

  • Impaired motor function

  • Impaired memory

The long-term effects of prolonged shatter use are not widely documented and more severe side effects may present themselves in some users.

Potential risks of shatter

The potency of shatter due to the high levels of THC in it can make it harmful for those unused to THC drugs. A single hit of shatter can contain more than 10 times the amount of THC contained in medical-grade marijuana and hits the brain rapidly. This can lead to negative side effects such as hysteria, hallucinations, delusions, and anxiety in those with a low THC tolerance.[6]

Shatter bought at street level may also contain harmful chemicals left over from the production process. Traces of butane and other solvents used in production may remain in shatter if the chemical process is not completed fully or rushed. This can lead to users inhaling harmful chemicals that can damage internal organs and the brain.

Is shatter addictive?

The continued decriminalization of marijuana products and their growing use in medical settings has led many to believe that marijuana and THC drugs pose little risk of addiction. While marijuana may be less addictive and hazardous than illicit substances such as heroin or cocaine, it can still affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for substance addictions forming.[7]

Tolerance and dependence on THC can develop over an extended period of time or with heavy use, which in turn can lead to addiction.[8] While shatter addiction is rare, ignoring the negative consequences of use, such as shatter withdrawal presenting when use stops, can lead to people requiring treatment for dependence or addiction.

Shatters effects on the brain

Shatter has a similar effect on the brain to THC edibles and marijuana, though it is far more intense. When the smoke from shatter is inhaled, THC molecules bind with cannabinoid receptors in the brain which leads to the desired high and other side effects. 

While Shatter’s short-term effects on the brain appear to be similar to other THC drugs, the long-term effects aren’t yet known. Read our guide on whether marijuana affects brain cells to find out more about THC and the brain. 

How long does shatter stay in your system?

Cannabis concentrates like shatter can stay in your system for a varied amount of time from person to person. Factors such as age, gender, weight, metabolism, and drug use history can all affect how quickly the body processes substances like THC.[2]

As with THC edibles, traces of shatter can be detected in urine within 72 hours and can be found in hair follicle samples up to 90 days after last taking the drug.[2]

Related: How long do THC edibles stay in your system?

Treatment of shatter dependence and addiction

While shatter addiction or dependence is rare, it can affect some people and once it has taken hold it can be difficult to overcome alone. Intense marijuana withdrawals and cravings can cause many people attempting to quit alone to relapse. In these cases, marijuana addiction treatment in an outpatient or inpatient setting is recommended. 

While there are no medications currently used to treat marijuana addiction, a combination of talking therapies such as CBT, detoxification, and support groups such as NA are proven to be the most effective forms of treatment. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with shatter addiction or any other form of THC dependency, then visit our rehab directory to find available treatment near you.