What is Delta-8 THC ?

Meet one of the newer cannabis compounds making a splash on the market, Delta-8 THC
Written by 
Erin Hiatt, Cannabis Writer and journalist.
|Check IconMedically reviewed by 
Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC.
|Last Updated:
What is Delta 8 THC

It’s an understatement to say that the non intoxicating cannabinoid CBD is immensely popular. In fact, according to cannabis market research firm Grand View Research, in 2020, the global worth of the CBD market was valued at US $2.8 billion and is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 21.2 percent from 2021-2028.

There are a few factors behind this massive market growth. One is demand; people are consuming CBD for health and wellness purposes like managing pain, anxiety, depression, stress relief, sleeplessness, skin conditions like acne, and the list goes on. As cannabis in general becomes more legal and accepted by the mainstream, consumers and manufacturers alike grow more comfortable with its safety and efficacy.

It’s clear then that consumers of all kinds love CBD because of its healing and ameliorative properties, and many are drawn to the cannabinoid simply because they don’t want to get high. But what if there was a place in the middle? A cannabinoid that might offer the healing benefits of CBD and a little bit of the intoxicating and euphoric effects of THC?

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9: Is There a Difference?

From a molecular standpoint, the difference is small but significant. Both forms of THC have double bonds on the molecular chain, but Delta-8’s bond is found on the eighth carbon chain, while Delta-9 is found on the ninth.

Both forms of THC bind to a cannabinoid receptor called CB1, but Delta-8 binds differently because of its molecular structure. This binding variation may be the reason why Delta-8 consumers report a more clear-headed and less anxiety-producing high.

Delta-8 may also be more stable than Delta-9. Over time, Delta-9 THC that is aged or oxidized will break down into CBN (cannabinol), a cannabinoid that has shown promise as a treatment for pain.Delta-8 is less likely to oxidize to CBN and as a result, may have a longer shelf life.

Will Delta-8 Get You High?

Yes! Though perhaps not as much as Delta-9. That depends on your particular body chemistry, potency, consumption patterns, and other variables.

What Are the Effects of Delta-8

Much like Delta-9, Delta-8 has been reported to soothe pain, reduce nausea, and stimulate appetite. It will get you high, though anecdotal reports indicate that the cannabinoid has less psychotropic potency than Delta-9.

Delta-8 vs. CBD

CBD or cannabidiol, is a non impairing cannabis compound known for its ability to reduce inflammation, pain, and anxiety, and is frequently used as a topical to reduce aches, pains, and skin conditions.

Delta-8 is a psychotropic compound that has intoxicating and euphoric effects, as well as a range of healing properties that differ from CBD.

How is Delta-8 Made?

Delta-8 is a degraded form Delta-9 THC, so it can be made by storing Delta-9 for a long period of time, then putting it through an extraction and refinement process. In the age of legal cannabis, savvy producers in the hemp CBD industry have learned to make synthetic Delta-8 by utilizing CBD from the hemp plant and converting it into Delta-8 THC by mixing a solvent with acid and heat in a process called isomerization.

How to Dose Delta-8

When considering how to properly dose Delta-8, you may want to use your personal CBD dose as a starting point and come down a bit from there, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of THC.

  • Vape cartridges: depending on the milligrams in the vape cartridge, take between one and three puffs for the desired effect. Onset will come quickly when vaping but the effects will wear off in about two to three hours
  • Tinctures: most tinctures contain between 30 and 60 milligrams per dose, but it is recommended that consumers begin with a dose of 2.5 milligrams. Effects are usually felt between 30-60 minutes and may last as long as eight hours. Be sure to hold it under your tongue for 30 to 90 seconds to receive maximal effects
  • Edibles: a standard dose ranges from 10-40 milligrams per dose. However, to avoid paranoia, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and other adverse effects, begin with a dose of 2.5 milligrams. This intake method takes the longest to kick in but may last the longest, perhaps up to 12 hours. Pro tip: Delta-8 metabolizes differently than Delta-9, so be sure not to overindulge, even with hemp-derived Delta-8.

As with most things cannabis, understanding your dosage can be a matter of trial and error, so remember cannabis’ cardinal rule; start low and go slow.

Will Delta-8 THC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Most definitely. Drug panels don’t search for specific cannabinoids but rather chemical markers called metabolites that get stored in fat cells called THC-COOH. These metabolites indicate that THC has been processed by the body whether it was an hour ago or two weeks ago.

How to Pass a Drug Test If You Consume Delta-8 THC

The only way you can pass a drug test after consuming Delta-8 is to delay the test for a week or longer (depending on amount and frequency of consumption). If you anticipate having to take a drug test soon, the only way to pass the panel is to not consume it.

Can I Get Delta-8 in the Mail?

That depends. As part of the COVID relief bill, beginning April 27, 2021, the United States Postal Service will prohibit the delivery of ENDS (Electronic Delivery Nicotine Systems) products, which includes vape pens, electronic pipes, or any other refillable personal vaporizer. Delta-8 products will most certainty get caught up in this new law.

Some Delta-8 purveyors argue that shipping the cannabinoid is legal under the protections offered to hemp by the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the DEA is in the process of finalizing its interim final hemp rules. Currently, their stance is that “synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain controlled substances,” though the meaning of “synthetically derived” remains ambiguous.

People have certainly been receiving Delta-8 in the mail, but it looks like those days will be ending soon.

How to Find Good, Safe Delta-8

The same rules that apply to purchasing CBD apply here. Always purchase from licensed and legal dispensaries to ensure that the product has been tested for toxins, contaminants, and impurities, and that the Certificate of Analysis (COA) is readily available and easily viewed.

How Does Delta-8 Work With the Endocannabinoid System?

Similar to Delta-9, Delta-8 binds to CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in the central nervous system. It is thought that Delta-8 may also bind partially to the CB2 receptor, but research is ongoing.

What Does the Research Say?

Most of what we do know about Delta-8 thus far has been gleaned from animal studies, so there is a lot left to be learned about how the cannabinoid interacts with humans. Nonetheless, there are some interesting findings gleaned from animal research. For example, in 1974 and 1975, studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that Delta-8 was able to kill cancer cells and reduce tumor size in mice.

A 1995 study published in Life Sciences found that eight pediatric patients had no vomiting and few side effects after ingesting Delta-8 prior to cancer treatments, while other studies have found that Delta-8 may help to stimulate appetite. In 20014, a mouse study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior learned that low dose Delta-8 THC administered over 50 days resulted in a 22 percent increase in food intake, and showed even more promise than Delta-9 which is famously known to stimulate the appetite.

Many consumers are drawn to cannabis consumption to reduce pain and inflammation, and a 2018 study confirms this inclination. Their findings, published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, showed that Delta-8 reduced inflammation and corneal injury in mice, and that when applied topically reduced pain and inflammation – though tolerance developed quickly thereafter.

On the anecdotal side, many consumers report that Delta-8 creates a less racy, more focused high, and helps to reduce anxiety.

Medical Potential

Our understanding of Delta-8 is evolving and coming more clearly into focus, but it is believed that Delta-8 may help improve conditions like pain and inflammation, anxiety, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Side Effects and Warnings

The biggest takeaway here is that there is still so much about Delta-8 we don’t know. It is safe to assume that any negative side effects that apply to Delta-9 THC, such as increased heart rate, dry mouth, memory loss, anxiety, red eyes, and slower reaction time, will also pertain to Delta-8.

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Erin Hiatt
Erin Hiatt
Cannabis Writer and journalist
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than seven years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Broadly, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, Weedmaps and many others - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Eloise Theisen
Eloise Theisen
RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC
Eloise Theisen is a board certified Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in cannabis therapy. For over 20 years, Eloise has worked primarily with cancer, dementia and chronic pain patients. In the last 6 years, Eloise has focused her efforts on cannabinoid therapies. Eloise has worked with over 6500 patients to help them effectively treat age-related and chronic illness with cannabis.

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