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What is Delta-8 THC?

delta 8 thc

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8 THC) is a minor cannabinoid found in small quantities in the cannabis plant. Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid similar to Delta-9 THC but is generally considered less potent. Many Delta-8 THC users report that the cannabinoid gives them a floating, weightless feeling like other cannabis products but with less brain fog.

Believed to produce a milder effect than Delta-9 THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), Delta-8 THC has exploded in popularity, particularly in states with no legal avenues to access medical or adult-use cannabis. However, the cannabinoid is still intoxicating, and how it’s made makes it potentially more dangerous due to industrial and chemical byproducts.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about Delta-8 THC’s effects and sent companies warning letters for misleading medical claims. Delta-8 THC is not necessarily wholly illegal, but it is not necessarily safe, at least when it comes to the synthetic product derived from CBD.

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Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC: What’s the Difference?

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol and Delta-8 THC are nearly identical in structure and have similar psychoactive effects and the same chemical formula (C21H30O2). Delta-9 and Delta-8 are alike because both cannabinoids bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the human nervous system, the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

The relatively obscure Delta-8 THC and the widespread Delta-9 THC molecules have little more than two atoms’ worth of variance. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol appears to be similar in therapeutic effectiveness to Delta-9 THC, as it is a CB1 receptor agonist and elicits comparable (but generally less potent) effects.

However, one key difference is that Delta-8 THC is one of the dozen-plus minor cannabinoids, whereas Delta-9 THC is a primary cannabinoid.

Delta-8 THC appears in very slight concentrations in the cannabis plant, but the relatively sparse cannabinoid is becoming one of the plant’s most popular elements.

How Delta-8 THC Affects the Body

One of the reasons for the rise in popularity of Delta-8 THC is that it’s not nearly as psychoactive as Delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid notoriously known for its highs.

The National Cancer Institute concurs that Delta-8 THC will leave medical cannabis patients with a softer psychoactive footprint, concluding, “This agent exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC), the primary form of THC found in cannabis.”

These properties make Delta-8 THC potentially very useful for children susceptible to Delta-9 THC and those seeking something more tolerable for chronic pain relief during the daytime. However, these potential therapeutic effects apply more to naturally occurring Delta-8 THC, not the synthesized version made by transforming CBD.

Health Benefits and Uses

Delta-8 THC offers many of the same potential therapeutic benefits as Delta-9 THC if we look at the non-synthesized version.

Pain Relief

THC performs double duties by reducing pain and related inflammation. Different forms of the cannabinoid may even help difficult-to-treat and severe pain associated with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

Digestive Benefits

Delta-8 THC may stimulate appetite while simultaneously reducing nausea and vomiting in some people. However, more evidence exists on the ability of Delta-9 THC to help with digestive disorders.


Soothing minor anxiety is one of the main reasons people turn to Delta-8 THC. The cannabinoid provides a natural alternative to prescription anxiety medications, but you should consult your medical professional first.

Side Effects and Risks

Compared to Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC may have fewer psychoactive side effects, but the jury is still out. Delta-9 THC side effects can include paranoia and anxiety, and Delta-9 THC has even been blamed for triggering dizziness and headaches, which can negate the benefits medical cannabis patients seek.

Delta-8 THC in cannabis is not reputed to trigger these side effects at the same level as Delta-9 THC.

You may, however, experience these side effects when using Delta-8 THC:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Red eyes

People who consume Delta-8 THC edibles are more likely to experience severe side effects than those who use other ingestion methods. In some cases, edible side effects have led to emergency room visits. The Delta-8 THC in these products is not necessarily safe.

Risks associated with Delta-8 THC include drug interactions. As with all forms of cannabis, avoid using Delta-8 THC if you are taking blood thinners, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or any other drugs your doctor deems incompatible.

Due to limited studies on Delta-8 THC, other potential side effects and risks are still unclear.

How to Use Delta-8 THC

In general, we would recommend avoiding most Delta-8 THC products on the market. Those who decide to use Delta-8 THC products ought to treat them like any other non-standardized, non-FDA-approved product made by industrial processes with caution and responsibility.

Administration routes include:

  • Vaping (which usually delivers the fastest results)
  • Smoking
  • Edibles
  • Topicals
  • Sublingual tinctures

As with all cannabis consumption, your ingestion method can directly impact your health. So, even though vaping or smoking may get you the effects you seek faster, it is not the best ingestion method from a health perspective.

Applying topicals may be the safest way to use Delta-8 THC, as you are not directly ingesting or breathing anything in.

Dosing Guidelines

Dosing on all forms of cannabis is dependent on several key factors, notably your experience level. Always consult with your doctor for specific dosage instructions, but consider these guidelines depending on your level of Delta-8 THC experience:

  • Beginners: Start low at 5 milligrams (mg) or less and do not exceed 15 mg
  • Intermediate: Up to 20 mg
  • Advanced: Up to 40 mg

Again, your ingestion method is an essential factor in dosing. Start with a lower dose for all edible products and experiment with slightly higher doses for topicals.

Alternatives to Delta-8 THC

The most obvious alternative to Delta-8 THC is another hemp product, specifically those containing CBD. Some popular CBD products include:

  • CBD oil
  • CBD tinctures
  • CBD gel capsules
  • CBD gummies
  • CBD edibles
  • CBD gels, creams, and lotions

However, the federal government has also failed to regulate CBD, and it remains a substance with little oversight, much like Delta-8 THC. One difference is that CBD is legal in all 50 states, while Delta-8 THC is only in a growing patchwork of states.

Delta-8 THC is sometimes mislabeled and illegally marketed, so be wary of any specific medical claims and cannabinoid content.

If cannabis is legal in your state, Delta-9 THC may be another alternative to Delta-8 THC, and the cannabis plant is likely far more well-tolerated compared to chemically synthesized Delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC vs CBD

Delta-8 THC and CBD are both cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and have the same chemical formula. However, the main difference between the two is their chemical structure, with Delta-8 THC having more in common with Delta-9 THC.

Delta-8 THC is therefore considered to have intoxicating and psychoactive effects, but not to the same extent as Delta-9 THC. CBD does not have the same intoxicating effects as Delta-8 THC but is considered psychoactive due to its physiological effects.

Similarities and Differences Between Delta-8 and CBD

THC and CBD have the same chemical formula, but the compounds are structured differently. This can give the two cannabinoids entirely different effects.

CBD is not intoxicating, whereas Delta-8 THC is. However, when it comes to their therapeutic uses, both share some similarities. Delta-8 THC and CBD could be beneficial for managing chronic pain, stress, and anxiety, for example.

How to Decide Which Is Best For You

There is no best cannabinoid, and they all have their uses, and different people may need different combinations, concentrations, and doses of cannabinoids.

Download Our Guide to Dosing Medical Marijuana

When to Use Delta-8

Delta-8 may help manage chronic pain, mitigate nausea, or help one get to sleep. Although it is not necessarily as psychoactive as Delta-9 THC, you may still wish to avoid consuming Delta-8 THC during the day.

Some may prefer to take Delta-8 in the evening to help them get to sleep.

When to Use CBD

If you are in employment where you are tested for THC, you may want to avoid Delta-8 consumption. CBD — particularly CBD isolates — is a better choice, although you may lose some efficacy due to the lack of other cannabinoids.

Low to moderate doses of CBD may also be better for daytime use if you want to stay awake.

The Bottom Line: Should You Use Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC could be considered relatively safe in cannabis and not made using industrial methods. The Delta-8 THC products on shelves, however, are a different matter. They are not necessarily made to high standards, and the chemical processes used to make them could leave undesirable byproducts that can cause harm.

We recommend avoiding using most, if not all, Delta-8 THC products made by changing CBD’s structure using chemical and industrial means. Utilize well-grown, lab-tested CBD products whenever possible.

Experience Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC together naturally in cannabis flower when you apply for a medical marijuana card. Leafwell’s on-call physicians are ready to meet with you online and guide you step-by-step through the application process.

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Originally Published: December 2021

Last Updated: April 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Delta-8 THC legal?

Delta-8-THC is unregulated at the federal level but legal in some states, including New Jersey and California. However, the compound remains illegal in cannabis-friendly states like Washington and Colorado. Delta-8-THC is legal in some states like Florida, where recreational cannabis remains illegal. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the constantly evolving legal status of Delta-8-THC. Legal changes are occurring quickly, as there is a push to ban Delta-8-THC in many states. It is arguable that many of the dangers delta-8-THC presents result from making cannabis illegal or mismanaged and disjointed regulation in places where it is legal but difficult to access.

Do Delta-8 products contain Delta-9-THC?

As Delta-8-THC products are unregulated, they could contain Delta-9-THC or other unexpected ingredients. It is likely that Delta-8-THC products, like other hemp products, including CBD oil, have trace amounts of delta-9-THC. The best way to ensure that you're purchasing a good quality product with the ingredients listed is to visit a licensed cannabis dispensary. A doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana will also help.

What does Delta-8 THC help with?

There is no definitive evidence to suggest what delta-8-THC can help with, especially concerning synthetically-produced delta-8-THC, and the harm could cancel out any potential benefit.

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