What is Delta 8 THC?

What is Delta 8 THC?

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Also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, Delta 8 THC is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. It is found as an isomer of cannabidiol, or CBD, and Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol. Therefore, it can be produced by converting CBD or Delta 9 THC in the appropriate environmental conditions via a chemical reaction. 

The isomer naturally exists in a similar state to Delta 9 THC, as a highly viscous oil. Hence, there is no need to decarboxylate it in order to feel the effects. Similarly, it shares a chemical formula of C21H30O2 and a molar mass of 314.464 g/mol.

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what is delta 8 thc


Advantages of Delta 8 THC

When compared with Delta 9 THC, Delta 8 THC is an excellent functional alternative with fewer negative side effects. This makes it a viable option for those that suffer from the addiction, sleep issues, paranoia, and anxiety. 

Hence, those that rely on the cannabinoids for medicinal reasons can still receive help without the drawbacks.

Furthermore, Delta 8 THC provides some protection against substance abuse. If large quantities are consumed in a short amount of time, that individual will build up resistance against the high. Hence, those that consume it recreationally can do so responsibly, having built up protection against the mental effects. This is an additional benefit for medical users who wish to remove the high feeling whilst continuing to treat themselves.


Legal Considerations of Delta 8 THC

Until 2018, Delta 8 THC had been specifically named as illegal in the Controlled Substances Act. However, in the H.R. 2: Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, Delta 8 THC was made legal. This is also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, and refers to all non-Delta 9 THC derivatives, isomers, and cannabinoids of hemp.

Hence, the cannabinoid is now legal in most US states and is federally legal nationally. Most states that have hemp laws mirroring H.R. 2 allow Delta 8 THC. However, a grey area does exist as some states specifically exclude the substance. Also, some may not allow cannabinoids, isomers, and derivative of hemp altogether.


How is Delta 8 THC Created?

Delta 8 THC can be found naturally in hemp and marijuana cannabis plants. However, the quantities of this are usually so small that extraction is difficult. As a result, the prices of products containing Delta 8 THC are much higher than they are for other cannabinoids.

Luckily, many cannabinoids closely resemble Delta 8 THC structurally. Therefore, a simple chemical reaction can yield it from other cannabinoids in much higher quantities than would be found naturally. Whilst these are commonly referred to as “synthetics”, they are more appropriately referred to as “conversions” or “derivatives”. 

This is because they can change into one another naturally if the correct conditions are there. An appropriate environment of light, heat, and time can produce such a reaction. Usually this occurs as the cannabis plant matures, with all cannabinoids beginning as CBGA before synthesizing into different ones.

Therefore, such conversions are naturally occurring, and not to be feared by new users. Instead they are usually performed to obtain rarer cannabinoids that have positive qualities. Or perhaps to generate more naturally occurring cannabinoids in higher quantities to improve efficiency and reduce extraction costs. However, removal of all reagents, solvents, acids and bases is crucial for safe use.


Effects of Delta 8 THC

Considerable inter-individual variability exists between users in terms of effects. However, generally the effects reflect the best combination of CBD and Delta 9 THC. Very few negative side effects exist, but can include headaches, red eyes, dry mouth, drowsiness, or an upset stomach.

At low doses, many find it to be energising, but this changes to sleep inducing at higher doses. Other effects include euphoria, relaxation, anaesthesia, increased libido, increased appetite, and reduced nausea. Users report that it is difficult to become overwhelmingly intoxicated, and easy to retain a clear head.

Compared to other Delta 9 THC, users report feeling more functional and active on Delta 8 THC. Furthermore, it is thought to contain more medicinal properties. Primarily because there is far less paranoia or “mental fogginess” than is reported in other cannabinoids. Hence, users can continue to perform daily tasks unhindered.


Consumption and Onset

As a general rule, a purer dose of Delta 8 THC, and few cannabinoids such as CBD or CBG, results in a faster onset and more intense effects. Depending on the method of consumption, Delta 8 THC effects usually takes longer to appear than Delta 9 THC effects do.

If consumed orally, it can take 45 minutes to four hours before the peak effects are experienced. Beyond this, effects can last as long as 12 hours. Therefore, a little as two doses could be enough for 24 hour treatment. This is far longer than that experienced with Delta 9 THC.

With vaporization or inhalation, the onset of effects comes about much quicker. Sometimes appearing within 20 minutes, peaking shortly after, and lasting for up to five hours.


Length of the Effects

Again, there is a great deal of variability between individuals. Generally, the larger the dose, the longer the effect, particularly if consuming edibles or tinctures. It is hard to accurately quantify this as the onset and come down are natural and can go unnoticed by users. Furthermore, most studies on effects focus solely on the peak and disregard the rest of the time spent above baseline.


Choosing an Appropriate Dose of Delta 8 THC

New users will likely need to try several different doses in order to find an appropriate one that delivers the desired effects. This is because the effects can take so long to appear. 

A typical dose is between 10 and 40 mg, however this is very dependent on the individual (age, sex, weight, etc.). Therefore, it is advised to start with lower doses and raise the dose as your tolerance increases. Do not exceed increases of 10 mg in one go, as even this dose can induce rapidly different effects. This avoids any unpleasant effects that result from intoxication.

Those who have used Delta 9 THC heavily in the past will likely have a higher tolerance, so can begin at higher doses. Existing reports claim Delta 8 THC to be about 75% as potent, but the molecules are not directly comparable, so this is hard to verify. It is possible that people feel this way because the peak effects are not as strong.


Safety Considerations

Currently, there is no long-term safety data for the cannabinoid. Most Delta 8 THC is created in a lab, therefore the primary safety concerns surround the fact that these settings must use correct operating procedures. Excess products must be removed, and an appropriately trained chemist should perform the conversion.

There is no known overdose limit for Delta 8 THC, which drastically reduces the safety concerns around the cannabinoid. However, it should be noted that orally consuming large quantities can induce both paranoia and anxiety in users. Hence, it is important to build up to an appropriate dosage rather than starting at a high one.


Human Tolerance to Delta 8 THC

The relative novelty of Delta 8 THC means that there are no existing studies on it that record tolerance in users. However, the structural similarities to Delta 9 THC mean that it is highly likely that tolerance will build with time. This can even be accelerated with excessive use of the product.

It is also possible that tolerance increases faster in users of Delta 8 THC. Again however, this may be due to the slower onset of effects compared to Delta 9 THC, meaning a higher dose might be needed to achieve as strong an effect.

Many users expect a similar feeling on both cannabinoids, but as discussed there are actually notable differences. Hence, some users take more than is necessary, and as a result increased their tolerance drastically faster than they would otherwise.



Delta 8 and 9 THC are believed to contain the same metabolites, except the double bond is changed when applicable. To date, the only existing study to mention metabolites was performed on mice. Although this is a mammal it is hard to apply this directly to humans.

In contrast, subjective observations suggest the metabolites actually last longer for Delta 8 THC than Delta 9 THC when ingested. They are potentially stronger too.


Drug Testing on Delta 8 THC

The similarity of metabolites mean that an individual being drug tested is unlikely to pass a drug test when using the cannabinoid. They will likely test positive for Delta 9 THC, which is generally used recreationally rather than medicinally. 

Studies to date used home drug testing kits, as well as those used by the police force. All tests were returned as positive for THC. Whilst this has not been scientifically verified, negative tests do seem to be a rarity.


Shelf Life of Delta 8 THC

Delta 8 THC is not known to decrease in potency over time. In fact, a study lasting 4 months actually saw the potency increase from 95% to 98%. However, this may just be due to minor variances as opposed to an actual increase in strength.


How Definitive is the Data on Delta 8 THC?

Again, the relative novelty of this cannabinoid means that the data on Delta 8 THC is not particularly definitive. The majority of long-term studies on cannabis derivatives have been performed on CBD or Delta 9 THC. Hence, Delta 8 THC falls into a rather large category of misunderstood cannabis products. Little is therefore known about safety, dosage, and effects.

However, to date, the product has been used safely and successfully in the marijuana market for years. Usually these products are obtained from the isomerization of Delta 9 THC as opposed to CBD or natural extraction. This means the products generally contain 5-50% Delta 9 THC in addition to the desired product. 

In contrast, Delta 8 THC acquired from hemp can only remain a hemp product if it contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC, and therefore requires a different process.


The Future of Delta 8 THC

For safe, efficacious Delta 8 THC usage in the future, many more controlled studies must be performed to definitively prove the theories. Although the positive feedback from users to date cannot be denied.

Currently, Delta 8 THC has not been suggested for any specific medical conditions by clinicians. However, it has still been used to self-medicate many patients, with overwhelmingly positive feedback. This contributes to the case for further investigation of Delta 8 THC as a legitimate treatment for a variety of conditions. 

Currently there is strong qualitative evidence of beneficial properties for pain relief, anxiety, depression, brain disorders, autism, nausea, appetite stimulation and more. It has even been suggested that Delta 8 THC would be vastly more effective in treating medical conditions than CBD. However, CBD has the research and evidence to back up its efficacy, whilst Delta 8 THC does not.

With enough demand and the acquisition of sufficient funding, further investigation into Delta 8 THC can occur. Potentially transforming the clinical and homeopathic treatment markets for several medical conditions.


The Bottom Line

Ultimately, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that Delta 8 THC can combine the best of the two most heavily researched cannabis products on the market. Both Delta 9 THC and CBD have been intensively studied and are therefore widely used recreationally. 

However there remains a gap in the market for a product such as Delta 8 THC, for both medical and recreational usage. Not only is it relaxing and mood-boosting, but it allows users to feel euphoric yet grounded with a clear head. This makes it highly feasible as a widely used product.  At low risk and potentially high reward, we are likely to see this as a focal point of investigations soon.

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