The Dangers of Delta-8 THC

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Laws and opinions about cannabis have changed dramatically in the last few years. More people have begun to use cannabis to manage their mental health conditions or even alleviate physical pain. However, there is a danger in purchasing types of cannabis, such as the controversial delta-8 THC, which is being banned in many states.

What is Delta-8 THC?

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol and is a psychoactive compound present in cannabis. Delta-8 THC is a chemical variant of delta-9 THC, commonly known as just THC. Cannabis plants contain much higher levels of delta-9 THC, but delta-8 is still present.

The allure of delta-8 THC is its allegedly weaker potency. It is weaker than delta-9 but still interacts with the same cannabinoid receptors, producing the effects that people like from cannabis but supposedly without negative effects such as paranoia. However, this is often not the case as many people who consume the delta-8 variant still experience negative effects.

Although delta-8 occurs naturally in cannabis plants, it is only found in trace amounts. Therefore, delta-8 is synthesized, likely through cannabidiol (CBD), which is extracted through hemp.

Is Delta-8 THC Legal?

Although delta-8 THC is technically legal, this area of the law is complex. The 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act, also known as the Farm Bill, drew a distinction between marijuana and hemp, which narrowed the definition of what marijuana is. Therefore, hemp, which can be used to create CBD, was legalized and the CBD market boomed.

As CBD can be used to create delta-8 THC, is it technically not illegal. Despite this, many states are beginning to ban it, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issuing many warnings about the dangers of delta-8. So far, twenty states have restricted or banned delta-8, and four more are considering its legality.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled delta-8 vapes as lawful under the Farm Bill but noted that Congress should fix its mistake in regards to its legality.

The Risks of Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 is promoted as being a milder version of regular THC, allowing users to feel relaxed and euphoric without feeling panicked or paranoid. However, the FDA has reported many risks to delta-8, including:

  • Psychoactive effects – similar to regular THC, delta-8 can cause people to get high. The FDA is concerned that delta-8 exposes consumers to higher levels of THC than found in naturally occurring cannabis, which can lead to highly intoxicating effects.
  • Harmful chemicals – additional chemicals are added to delta-8, as it does not consist of much natural THC. Some manufacturers may be using unsafe household chemicals to create delta-8, which can be incredibly harmful if consumed or inhaled.
  • Unintended consequences – although delta-8 is reported to be milder than THC, it has been found to cause adverse effects, including anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and hallucinations.

Although there is a wealth of information about the effects of THC, the same cannot be said for delta-8. Many people claim that it is natural and safe, but this is not true – the health effects are unknown. There is also the risk of harmful chemicals being added to delta-8 in unregulated labs or of products being more potent than advertised.

Delta-8 products may also raise the risk of developing or worsening a mental health condition. Marijuana has been linked to depression, social anxiety, and even suicide.[1]

THC vs. CBD

THC and CBD are the best-known compounds found in cannabis. The two are very different from one another and produce different effects.

CBD is non-psychoactive and does not produce the high that THC is known for. It is usually sourced from hemp rather than the cannabis plant and affects different receptors in the brain. CBD use can cause side effects such as:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

CBD is often thought of as completely safe. Although it can have some benefits, it is important to remember that a majority of CBD products are not approved by the FDA, meaning that they have not undergone rigorous testing to prove that they are safe.

On the other hand, THC is a psychoactive substance producing a sense of euphoria when consumed. It binds to different receptors in the brain and can relieve pain. Many states have passed laws making medical marijuana legal, with several also making recreational use legal. The side effects of THC can include:

  • Red eyes
  • Slow reaction times
  • Memory loss
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased heart rate

Cannabis and Psychosis

Although cannabis is being increasingly studied and legalized, there are still risks. Cannabis-induced psychosis is a rare but serious side effect of consuming cannabis that can be incredibly scary for those who experience it.

Cannabis-Induced Psychosis Disorder (CIPD) includes symptoms such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Disorganized speech

Although hallucinations and delusions are often conflated, they are different conditions. Hallucinations are sensory perceptions that are not real, such as feeling someone touch you when there is nobody near you. On the other hand, delusions involve believing something that is not true, such as that you are a supernatural being.

CIPD is not a one-off occurrence. The symptoms do not fade after the high does – symptoms can last for days, potentially even weeks. These symptoms can get in the way of everyday life, and the hallucinations and delusions can seem incredibly real.

Several risk factors can increase the risk of CIPD developing:

  • Age – using cannabis at a younger age can increase the risk of psychosis. Those who begin using cannabis at a younger age are more likely to experience psychosis or be diagnosed as schizophrenic.[2]
  • Frequency – people who use cannabis frequently are more likely to develop symptoms of psychosis.
  • Mental health – pre-existing mental health conditions, especially schizophrenia, increase the likelihood of CIPD occurring. In young people, marijuana use can trigger or worsen the symptoms of mental illness.

Although developing a mental health condition is multifaceted and not caused by a single factor, cannabis use can significantly raise the risk. Excessive consumption of marijuana can encourage the development of mental health conditions in otherwise healthy people, although experts state that other factors such as genetics and environmental factors are also at play.

Cutting out marijuana consumption can help with the symptoms of psychosis. However, it could also trigger a psychotic disorder, meaning that the symptoms will still be present even without marijuana.  

Conclusion

Delta-8 THC is not the safe alternative to regular THC that it is touted to be. It can have the same effects as regular THC, and as it has not been evaluated or regulated by the FDA, it has not been deemed safe for use. Despite this, it is widely available online and in brick-and-mortar stores, with limited regulations.

Consuming delta-8 can lead to many unintended side effects, including psychosis. Psychosis can occur due to the regular consumption of cannabis products and can even trigger long-lasting mental health conditions.

The risks of delta-8 THC are varied and not worth the potential adverse effects that it can have on your health.


Sources:

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017.

[2] Hall, Wayne, and Louisa Degenhardt. “Cannabis use and the risk of developing a psychotic disorder.” World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) vol. 7,2 (2008): 68-71. doi:10.1002/j.2051-5545.2008.tb00158.x

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