Is delta-8 THC superior to regular THC? Experts explain how it affects mood
In the past Years you may have seen something called delta-8 THC or “delta 8” popping up in convenience stores and drugstores alongside CBD gummies, oils, and lotions. Delta-8 THC is a hemp-derived compound closely related to delta-9 THC. Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis responsible for users’ high sensation.
Like garden strain marijuana, you can vape or eat delta-8 THC. However, it is rarely smoked. Anecdotally, fans swear by its benefits – that it helps with relaxation and pain relief without intense effects that can veer into anxiety or paranoia.
Yet, there has been a dearth of research on this compound. As public health experts, we decided to conduct the first survey of delta-8 THC users to find out who was using it, why they were using it, and what kind of effects it had.
Is Delta-8 THC legal?
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – also known as the Farm Bill – legalized the sale of hemp-derived compounds. The widely available CBD is a compound derived from hemp.
Delta-8 THC is another. It is an isomer, or chemical analogue, of THC. The difference lies in the position of a double bond in the carbon ring, which causes delta-8 THC to have a lower affinity for the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system in our brain. For this reason, it may be less potent than THC and cause a less intense high.
The natural concentrations of delta-8 THC in cannabis are too low to be effectively smoked in raw buds or flowers. It must be extracted from large quantities of plant material, transformed from another cannabinoid like CBD, or chemically synthesized. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers artificially synthesized delta-8 THC to be illegal.
Nevertheless, delta-8 THC products have become one of the fastest growing sectors in the hemp industry. They seem to be especially popular in areas where THC products remain illegal or where medical access is very difficult.
There is little research on this component of cannabis. A 1973 study found that the effects of delta-8 THC mimicked those of THC but were not as intense. Another, published in 1995, suggested that delta-8 THC could be used to treat the adverse effects of chemotherapy.
These studies, however, recruited only a dozen people, and few policymakers even seem to be aware of their existence. While people can buy delta-8 THC at convenience stores and hemp stores in many states, more than a dozen US states have blocked the sale of delta-8 THC products. These bans are often due to a lack of research into its psychoactive effects and concerns about contamination with heavy metals and other toxic substances.
What Delta-8 THC does to the brain
In our study, we collected data via an online survey that was completed by over 500 participants in 38 states.
Most of our participants have consumed delta-8 THC in the form of concentrates consumed as edibles and tinctures or smoked via vaping – methods of ingestion that may be safer than smoking. About half said they had used delta-8 THC to treat a health or medical condition, and nearly a third of participants said they used delta-8 THC exclusively to treat a health condition – they didn’t. didn’t just use it for fun. Common conditions treated were anxiety or panic attacks, chronic pain, depression or bipolar disorder, and stress – conditions that people also treat with delta-9 THC.
As expected, participants thought delta-8 THC had somewhat less intense effects than THC.
What is remarkable, however, is how the profiles of their experiences differ.
Compared to THC, delta-8 THC appears to provide similar levels of relaxation and pain relief. Although it appears to cause slightly lower levels of euphoria, it also appears to produce fewer cognitive distortions such as impaired sense of time, short-term memory issues, and difficulty concentrating. Participants were also significantly less likely to experience distressing mental states such as anxiety and paranoia. Many participants commented that they could use delta-8 THC while being productive, whereas they tended to use THC products recreationally, given its more potent mood-altering effects.
Most participants reduced or stopped using pharmaceutical drugs, as well as THC products, because they were using delta-8 THC to treat their conditions. They considered delta-8 THC to be better than pharmaceutical drugs in terms of adverse side effects, addiction, withdrawal symptoms, efficacy, safety, availability, and cost.
However, the participants were not convinced that their primary care physician could integrate medical cannabis into their treatment. Many had not disclosed their use of delta-8 THC as a substitute for pharmaceutical drugs to their doctors.
These trends demonstrate the need for more research and better education for healthcare providers on cannabis and its derivatives; there is still a disconnect between those who use cannabis for self-treatment and the mainstream health care system.
What’s next for delta-8 THC?
Our findings are just the beginning. We hope they will spur more sophisticated research, such as double-blind randomized controlled trials that explore its potential as a treatment for specific conditions. And we still don’t know if some of the effects reported by our participants, both beneficial and harmful, were due to contaminants or expectations – a placebo effect.
Yet, even though delta-8 THC products may provide much of the experiential and therapeutic benefits, with lower risks and fewer adverse effects, some states have banned sales of delta-8 THC outright. Given that many of these same states allow the recreational sale of cannabis and other hemp products, this seems a bit counterintuitive.
Criminalizing substances with high consumer demand like delta-8 THC can create a black market and raise even more concerns for consumer safety, as there is no mechanism for regulation and consumer protection.
Cannabis laws remain a patchwork of policies and regulations. With more and more Americans having access to cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, we believe it behooves policymakers to advocate for further study of this promising alternative.
This article was originally published on The conversation through Daniel J. Kruger at the University of Michigan and Jessica S. Kruger to University at Buffalo. Read it original article here.