Log in

Get your medical card online in minutes!

Get started

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

cuentagotas y tubos de ensayo para el THC y la mano de la mujer con las letras Delta 8 THC

THC-O and Delta-8 are hemp-derived cannabinoids. They produce similar effects, providing a range of recreational and medical uses, but they have a few key differences that set them apart.

The main difference between THC-O and Delta-8 is their legal status. THC-O is entirely legal in most states, while Delta-8 is illegal or in the process of becoming illegal in most states.

Get your medical marijuana card

Connect with a licensed physician online in minutes.

What Is THC-O?

Tetrahydrocannabinol-O-acetate (THC-O-acetate, also known as THC-O) is a non-natural or semi-synthetic cannabinoid. This means that it is a chemical found in nature but is produced artificially from a naturally occurring cannabinoid, THC.

THC-O can be synthesized from any cannabis plant (marijuana or hemp, sativa, and indica strains) via laboratory processes involving highly toxic synthetic chemicals like acetic anhydride.

Due to THC-O’s relatively recent popularization, little is known scientifically. Some speculate that THC-O has psychedelic effects and claim it is three times more potent than regular THC. THC-O is relatively unregulated, and little is known about its danger.

How THC-O is Made

THC-O acetate is produced from the hemp plant through a complex and dangerous chemical process.

The process begins with CBD extraction from raw hemp, and further extraction occurs of Delta-8 THC from the CBD. The chemical acetic anhydride, commonly used to create drugs, plastics, and explosives, is added to make THC-O’s final product.

Read more: THC-O vs. Delta-8 THC: What’s the Difference?

THC-O’s crude preparations may appear brown and viscous, similar to motor oil. It has no aroma or flavor, as making THC-O strips the hemp of its terpenes and flavonoids. This is one of the many reasons we often advise people to be wary of synthetic cannabinoids (SCBs).

How THC-O Affects the Body

THC-O is a THC analog, and as a synthetic cannabinoid, it is assumed to interact with cannabinoid receptors. THC-O may have different functional effects than THC, including differential physical and chemical properties, which are yet to be investigated despite the relative chemical similarity.

One known detail about THC-O is that it’s a prodrug of THC, meaning THC-O is an inactive substance that must be metabolized into its active form. This occurs through deacetylation from liver enzymes that remove the acetate (O) group. This causes a delay in THC-O’s effects of 20-30 minutes after consumption.

As a relatively thick liquid, THC-O is ingested in edible products, tinctures, and vaporizer cartridges. Some compare THC-O’s effects to lower doses of naturally occurring psychedelics like mescaline. However, these effects are merely anecdotal points, and further research into THC-O’s effects is required.

Psychedelics like mescaline target different receptor systems, particularly the serotonin 5HT2A receptor, so effects can vary significantly from what some have stated about THC-O. Some have compared cannabis to psychedelics in its effects, but these are often personal accounts and don’t necessarily apply to synthetic or semi-synthetic cannabinoids.

Download Our Free Guide to CBD


THC-O products potentially carry therapeutic effects similar to other THC products; however, it is most often used for recreational purposes. THC-O may be more potent than THC and is said to provide the consumer with mild hallucinogenic or psychedelic effects.

Some users report that the potent effects of THC-O have increased their spiritual and mental awareness and have provided them with mild visual effects similar to those found by using other psychedelic substances.

Download Our Free Guide to THC


THC-O has been the topic of much legal debate. THC-O is extracted from the hemp plant and is legal in all states under the Farm Bill of 2018. Some suggest its production and consumption are legal.

This law has been suggested to play a part in the growing popularity of hemp-derived synthetic cannabinoids like THC-O in states where cannabis is illegal. From this view, it seems the Farm Bill has inadvertently prompted the creation of hemp extractions, often more potent than their delta-9-THC cousins.

However, other experts believe THC-O is illegal under the 1986 Federal Analogue Act due to its structural similarity to THC. This states that any substance with structural similarity (structural analog) to a Schedule 1 substance will come under the same laws as that substance.

THC is Schedule 1. It is important to note that CBD and Delta-8-THC would also come under this law, and THC-O’s legality thus depends on where the line is drawn.

Potential Benefits

In addition to its recreational use, THC-O is also said to be helpful for stress relief and has anti-anxiety and anti-nausea effects. It can also be used as an appetite stimulant.

Risks and Drawbacks

THC-O is unregulated and can vary extensively with lower-quality reagents and equipment.

Unlike legal and FDA-regulated THC products, there is no guarantee of what consumers will receive when purchasing THC-O products. They may have harsh chemicals used in the creation process, dangerous thinning agents, or unknowns.

Aside from its unregulated nature, the actual dangers of THC-O are yet to be investigated, so it remains hazardous to use. This synthetic cannabinoid is rumored to be three times as strong as regular THC, and it lends itself toward negative results that may not be apparent with regular cannabis use.

“So, between the inherent danger of the process to make it, the potential toxicity of the product, and its illegality, I’ve got to recommend that people forget about it,” cannabis and endocannabinoid researcher Ethan Russo, M.D. told HempGrower. “It’s just not something that people should be trying.”

It’s important to be conscientious about using THC-O, potentially even avoiding it entirely. Consumers have reported side effects such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

It can also take up to 30 minutes to feel the effects of THC-O after it is consumed, which may make using it dangerous. Those unaware of this may assume they haven’t taken enough to feel the effects, causing them to take a second dose.

There is also the possibility that THC-O can lead to tolerance increases, where more of the compound is needed to feel the same effects. With the lack of research on THC-O, it may be best to avoid its use.

What Is Delta-8?

How It Works

Delta-8 THC (often shortened to Delta-8) is a psychoactive compound in marijuana and hemp. The cannabis plant naturally produces it. However, it is not found in significant amounts, and thus, it is typically made from hemp-derived cannabidiol.

Delta-8 has a similar chemical structure to Delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana that produces the feeling of a high. Delta-8 is said to cause a milder high than Delta-9 THC and has less potent side effects.


Many people use Delta-8 to relax and produce euphoric feelings, and it’s also used for pain relief and its anti-nausea effects. However, little research has been done to support these claims.

Researchers still cannot tell us if the benefits of using Delta-8 outweigh the risks.

Potential Benefits

Due to the lack of research, the potential benefits of Delta-8 are reported through social media. Some people have suggested using Delta-8 alongside prescription medications to help with substance abuse and depression. Other effects of Delta-8 that have been reported are:

  • Increased appetite
  • Preventing nausea associated with cancer treatment
  • Increased pain relief
  • Improved mental outlook

Risks and Drawbacks

The FDA has not evaluated or approved Delta-8 products sold in physical stores and online. This can put the consumer at risk, as products have not proven effective or safe.

There is a lack of research surrounding the health impacts of Delta-8. Some users have reported side effects, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes

Similarities and Differences Between THC-O and Delta-8

THC-O and Delta-8 are hemp derivatives and can give the user a high. THC-O is up to three times more potent than Delta-8 and provides the user with a borderline hallucinogenic experience, whereas using Delta-8 is more likely to produce soothing and sedative effects.

How to Decide Which One Is Best for You

When to Use THC-O

THC-O is mainly used for recreational purposes. Users often report almost hallucinogenic or psychedelic experiences after consuming THC-O products. It may be best to avoid using it.

When to Use Delta-8

People often use Delta-8 for therapeutic benefits. The low potency of Delta-8 produces less psychoactive effects and is sometimes used for its anti-anxiety and anti-nausea effects. The safety of Delta-8 THC is also called into question due to how it is produced. Avoid using Delta-8 THC products for this reason.

Get Your Medical Card

Connect with a licensed physician online in minutes.

Originally Published: August 2022

Last Updated: April 2024

diamond icon

Frequently Asked Questions

Is THC-O the same as Delta-8?

While both hemp products, THC-O is different from Delta-8 because it produces different effects and is not produced naturally within the cannabis plant.

Is THC-O stronger than Delta-9?

THC-O may be up to three times more potent than Delta-9, so keep the high THC-O potency in mind when consuming any synthetic cannabinoid products containing this substance, including (but not limited to) THC-O edibles, THC-O vapes, etc.

Keep Reading

structural formula of THC-O
What Is THC-O?

THC-O is a non-natural cannabinoid produced in a lab, and the substance hasn’t been studied thoroughly for safety and may be dangerous to use.