You may have noticed delta-8 THC as well as CBD gummies, oils, and lotions in convenience stores and pharmacies over the past year. For more information, visit dieselhemp.com.
Delta-8 THC is a hemp-derived compound that’s closely related to delta-9 THC – what’s commonly known as THC, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes the high felt by users.
Delta-8 THC can be vaped or eaten like garden variety marijuana. Most people don’t smoke it. According to anecdotal evidence, its fans swear that it helps with relaxation and pain relief without causing strong highs that can cause anxiety or paranoia.
Despite that, there hasn’t been much research on this compound. Our goal as public health scholars was to conduct the first survey of delta-8 THC users to learn who was using it, why they were using it, and what the effects were.
New cannabinoid to storm the market
Hemp-derived compounds were legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act. CBD, a widely available compound derived from hemp, is one such compound.
Another one is Delta-8 THC. The isomer is chemically similar to THC. Delta-8 THC has a lower affinity for the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system in our brains because of its positional double bond in the carbon ring. Due to this, it is less potent than THC and causes a milder high.
Two diagrams showing the chemical structures of delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC.
There are striking similarities between the chemical structures of delta-9 THC, also known as THC, and delta-8 THC. The only difference is the position of the double bond in the carbon ring.
For raw buds or flowers, the delta-8 THC content of cannabis is too low to make it effective for smoking. This cannabinoid must be extracted from large amounts of plant material, transformed from another cannabinoid such as CBD, or synthesized chemically. Delta-8 THC artificially synthesized is illegal according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
However, delta-8 THC products have become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the hemp industry. They seem to be especially popular in areas where THC products are illegal or access to medical marijuana is difficult.
This component of cannabis has received little research. The effects of delta-8 THC mimicked those of THC, but were less intense than those of THC. Another study, published in 1995, suggested delta-8 THC could be used as a therapeutic treatment for chemotherapy-related side effects.
Science clears up the smoke
We collected data via an online survey that was complete by more than 500 participants across 38 states.
Participants in our study consumed delta-8 THC mainly in the form of edibles and tinctures, or by vaping – methods of intake that may be safer than smoking. The majority of participants said they used delta-8 THC to treat a health or medical condition, and almost one third said they used it exclusively to treat a health condition – they didn’t use it just for fun. The most common conditions treated with delta-9 THC were anxiety or panic attacks. Chronic pain, depression or bipolar disorder, and stress.
Participants thought delta-8 THC had a less intense effect than THC, as we would have expected.