What exactly is Delta-8 and how is it different than regular THC?

Most can consumers probably know that tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is a molecule produced by cannabis (marijuana) which causes an effect on the brain. This chemical compound also delivers many medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory and anticancer qualities.

What most people don’t know however, is that there are actually several different molecules with psychoactive effects inside of marijuana plants; some deliver this kind of feeling to humans while others do not have such properties at all.

Examples of isomers (compounds with the same formula but a different arrangement) of THC include delta-9, THCA, and THCV and Delta-8 (Which is a diluted form of the highly potent Delta-9, with less side effects).

THC isomers vary significantly in terms of efficacy. For example, delta-8 and delta-9 THC are known to increase appetite extensively when combined with the right mix of terpenes (a state colloquially referred to as “the munchies”). Meanwhile, THCV actually reduces appetite by comparison.

 

Ok, so what’s the difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9?

 

One of the main differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is in psychoactivity. Delta 8 provides half as much psychoactive power to its user, with some anecdotal evidence stating that it may not have a negative effect on anxiety or disorientation. Beyond that, they are very similar compounds.

Unlike most commercial strains of cannabis that typically yield up to 30% Delta-9 THC directly from the cannabis flower, These strains may have less than 1% delta-8 THC. Consequently, cannabinoid testing labs do not test for this substance in most states that allow for marijuana use. Larger quantities of delta-8 are typically derived by chemical conversion of CBD from industrial hemp.

In the past few years, several entities have looked into delta-8 specifically to get a better handle on how it could be used as an additional source of cannabis compounds and whether or not any standards should be set at all. An example is the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts, which decided not to include delta-8 THC in the definition of marijuana for regulatory purposes.

Delta-8 and delta-9 THC share many qualities, including analgesic properties, euphoric effects, antiemetic properties and appetite stimulation. Both have side effects like dry eye and paranoia which may be stronger at higher doses.

Delta-8 is a milder version of THC that some cannabis users have consumed so they avoid intense psychoactivity like that of Delta-9. Some people, however, recommend using lower dose delta-9 combined with delta-8 because it may prevent side effects like anxiety and panic attacks. In contrast to using a higher dose Delta-9 with added CBD.

The legality of delta-8 THC is rapidly evolving and controversial. The legal status has changed in the past year, with 11 U.S. states now prohibiting it while others allow its use for medicinal purposes or as part of adult-use cannabis products depending on what state you’re located in.  At the federal level, this molecule remains illegal no matter your location across America. One major difficulty when assessing Delta 8 THC is that its legal status can change quickly, making understanding how to regulate it difficult based upon where a person lives.

 

Delta-8 is new in the “commercial” marijuana industry, but it has been studied for over four decades

 

A quick search of Pubmed on the National Library of Medicine for “delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol” studies, yields over 200 results dating back to 1973:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=delta-8-thc

 


A study that was published in the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics Journal, in 1973:

Delta-8- and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in Man by Oral and Intravenous Administration

 


A study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research has shown that topical cannabinoids that include delta-8 THC reduce corneal hyperalgesia and inflammation and could be a novel clinical therapy for corneal pain and inflammation resulting from ocular surface injury.

The Cannabinoids Δ8THC, CBD, and HU-308 Act via Distinct Receptors to Reduce Corneal Pain and Inflammation

 


This 2009 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology

Separation of cannabinoid receptor affinity and efficacy in delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol side-chain analogues

 


Additional reading and credit to Curt Robbins at Higher Learning LV.

Beyond Bias: A Research-based Consideration of Delta-8 THC

 

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