Cannabis sativa, the plant species best known for hemp and marijuana, is making its way into mainstream culture—and medical research. The naturally-occuring active constituents in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, contain purported benefits, such as anxiety and chronic pain relief, as well as the “high” often associated with cannabis use. You’ve likely heard of the two most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis sativa, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but research suggests this plant may contain many other potentially beneficial cannabinoids. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, often referred to as delta-8 THC, is an intoxicatingly psychoactive cannabinoid with effects similar to delta-9 THC. Read on to learn more about delta-8 THC, how it compares to THC and CBD, its associated risks, potential benefits and more.
What Is Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol?
Delta-8 THC is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa plants, but it’s not present in significant levels. Therefore, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived CBD, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive substance that is known to be less potent but chemically similar to delta-9 THC, the compound often referred to as THC that results in an intoxicating “high.” It’s sometimes called delta-9 THC’s nicer younger sibling, says Daniel Kruger, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Michigan. Delta-8 THC may provide much of the experiential benefits of delta-9 THC, such as relaxation, euphoria and pain relief, with fewer adverse effects, he adds.
How Does Delta-8 THC Compare to Delta-9 THC and CBD?
Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive and intoxicating cannabinoid that is synthetically produced as a byproduct from CBD or delta-9 THC. Consumption often leads to a more mild “high” than delta-9 THC with less accompanying anxiety.Delta-9 THC is the most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis and is the main active compound that gets you “high.” It’s known to produce states of euphoria as well as a slew of side effects, such as panic attacks and impaired ability to perform mental work. Delta-9 THC is not federally legal, yet state laws vary for recreational and medicinal use.CBD potentially shares some of the purported benefits of delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC without “the high.” Some potential benefits include relief from chronic pain, anxiety and depression.All cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Part of the neurological system, the endocannabinoid system helps control many important function areas, such as inflammation and pain regulation. Endocannabinoid receptors are where the active constituents of cannabis sativa bind, and they are found within the cardiac, gastrointestinal, brain, muscular and reproductive systems.
Potential Benefits of Delta-8 THC
There is a lack of scientific research and clinical trials pertaining to delta-8 THC, and most of its potential benefits are dependent on marketing claims. More information is needed to identify any potential health benefits related to delta-8 THC, but legality issues make this research difficult.While additional studies are needed, some reports show using delta-8 THC may lead to relaxation, euphoria and pain relief, according to the Journal of Cannabis Research.Research indicates that delta-8 THC may have fewer adverse side effects and a milder impact on users than delta-9 THC because it has a lower psychotropic potency. Studies examining potential benefits, including delta-8 THC’s ability to curb nausea and vomiting, lower anxiety, stimulate the appetite and provide analgesic and neuroprotective properties, are ongoing.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Delta-8 THC
The process of synthetically manufacturing delta-8 THC involves converting CBD from hemp with chemicals, such as organic solvents and strong acids that may be harmful to our health. These products are not regulated, and there are no research studies available to show their long-term impacts on health.In a survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, authors noted side effects of delta-8 THC, including:
Difficulties with short-term memory
Altered sense of time
Anxiety and paranoia
The FDA is seeing an increase in adverse events related to delta-8 THC consumption, citing 104 reports between December 2020 and February 2022. The nature of these events included hallucinations, vomiting and loss of consciousness, among others.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
The legality of delta-8 THC still resides in a gray area. Cannabis is illegal on a federal level due to its delta-9 THC content, as stated by the Federal Controlled Substance Act, yet each state follows their own laws pertaining to medical and recreational use. CBD extracted from hemp is legal federally, but it isn’t legal if extracted from cannabis.While delta-8 THC products have not been classified as illegal at the federal level, the manufacturing of delta-8 THC likely violates federal law, according to the National Drug Court Institute. Furthermore, in some states where recreational cannabis is legal, such as Colorado, delta-8 THC products have been explicitly banned.
Does Delta-8 THC Lead to Positive Drug Test Results?
Unfortunately, there’s not enough scientific evidence to determine whether using delta-8 THC will result in a positive drug test result. Due to the chemical similarities of delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC, researchers believe excessive use may lead to a positive drug test, especially since CBD isolates can potentially lead to positive results.
Is Delta-8 THC Safe?
Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved for safe use by the FDA and may be marketed in ways that put public health at risk. If you’re interested in using products containing delta-8 THC, speak with your health care provider to see if they might be right for your needs.