Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC) is a minor cannabinoidfound 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 identical to other cannabis products but with less brain fog.
Believed to produce a milder effect than delta-9-THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), this cannabinoid has exploded in popularity, particularly in states with no legal avenues to access cannabis. However, the cannabinoid is still intoxicating, and how it is made may be pretty 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 (yet), 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, CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The relatively obscure Delta-8-THC and the very popular 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 similar (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 is not nearly as psychoactive as Delta-9-THC, the cannabinoid that notoriously “gets you high.” 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.
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.
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
- 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 the same way you would use any other non-standardized, non-FDA-approved product made by industrial processes: with caution and responsibility.
Administration routes include:
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 anything or breathing anything in.
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 legal 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
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 would generally recommend avoiding using most, if not all, delta-8-THC products made by changing CBD’s structure using chemical and industrial means. We urge people to utilize well-grown and tested cannabis and lab-tested, high-quality CBD products where possible.
Experience Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC together naturally in the 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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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.