Concentrates: When Marijuana Doesn’t Look Like Marijuana

Image: Brad Bethell 
By Evan Sahn
ACS’ Outpatient Counseling Intern

As a substance abuse counselor, one of my many responsibilities is to assist adolescents and families in achieving reduction in substance use, resolve internal family conflicts, resolve psychological issues that drive substance use, and eventually achieve sobriety.  That being said, we do spend some of our time identifying substances found by parents that were well-hidden (though perhaps not well-hidden enough) by their teens.  Parents will come to us concerned because they suspect the substance is a drug and are seeking confirmation from Adolescent Counseling Services clinicians.  In many of these cases, the substance being brought in is a concentrate.  For this article, I will provide a number of examples of concentrates as well as other marijuana substances and the paraphernalia used to smoke them.

My hope is that parents reading this article will become more adept at identifying these substances when they are found.  In reading this article, parents may have a concern that this blog could inadvertently educate teens about substances they have not heard of.  I understand this concern, but would remind parents of an important fact.  Most teens already know about these substances, but their parents do not.  Parents are unaware of these substances for good reason since they had not been invented yet when they were children.  Please keep in mind that this list is not meant to be entirely exhaustive as there are a number of types of concentrates and they go by a variety of names.


Kief are the trichomes or hairy parts of the marijuana plant (seen above to the left) that are highly concentrated with THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana.  The picture on the is what kief looks like after it has been stripped away from the plant.  This substance is highly potent and is far more intoxicating than if the marijuana plant were smoked alone.  Some users will smoke kief directly, however, a number of users prefer to add it to a joint or sprinkle it on top of a bowl of marijuana.


Concentrate Examples

Image Source: Cannabis Training Institute

Cannabis Butter

Image Source: Ryan Bushby(HighInBC)

Hash Oil

The particular type of concentrate I will refer to here is known as BHO or Butane Hash Oil.  As seen above, these concentrates take on a number of forms, but all share two things in common.  One, they are among the most potent form of marijuana.  And two, they are extracted through a chemical process from the marijuana plant.  These substances can be added to marijuana like kief mentioned earlier.  However, BHOs are generally smoked exclusively and many users will only smoke concentrates after trying them.  Teens smoke concentrates because they are far more potent and are less likely to leave a smell.  Because these substances are FAR more potent than the marijuana plant, their use may suggest a more serious substance use problem.

How do teens smoke concentrates?

If concentrates are NOT added to a joint or bowl, which is often the case, they are smoked out of paraphernalia that is used for the express purpose of concentrates.  The two most popular ways are via a rig or vape pen.


A rig is essentially a glass or ceramic bong that has been modified for the use of smoking concentrates.  This act of smoking is often known as dabbing.  Smoking with a rig also requires a blowtorch in order to heat up and evaporate the concentrate.  Consequently, the presence of blow torch may suggest dabbing.

Radiation Inhaler


Vape Pens

Vape pens look very similar to an e-cigarette and are used to vaporize concentrates.  They do not require a flame for ignition. As you can see, this type is of paraphernalia is concealable and less likely to be detected from smell since it is not being burned.