Delta-8-THC is taking the cannabis market by storm. In a recent New York Times feature, New Leaf Data Services, which tracks trends in the cannabis market, identified Delta-8 as the “fastest-growing segment” of the hemp-derived market.
Apparently, its reduced psychotropic effects offer the full spectrum of benefits we expect from “normal” THC without the anxiety or psychoses that may accompany a typical marijuana high. However, the hype has begun to outpace information, and some consumers are finding the cannabinoid to be stronger than they expected, leading to overconsumption and questions about dosing.
What is Delta-8-THC?
We loosely use the word “THC” to refer to delta-9-THC, a specific chemical compound found in marijuana plants that carries psychotropic effects (it gets you high). Delta-8-THC (sometimes written with the Greek character as Δ8) is another cannabinoid compound found in marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana and hemp are biologically very similar, but marijuana has a high concentration of delta-9-THC, whereas delta-8 can be derived from hemp. In this way, delta-8 enters the market through the same door as CBD.
In fact, it is often sold as a sexier version of CBD that can get you a little elevated. However, THC and CBD do not interact with the body the same way. CBD does not bind the CB receptors in the endocannabinoid system, but rather inhibits cannabinoid-destroying enzymes, and so raises the level of the body’s endocannabinoids. Conversely, THC binds directly with CB receptors, and Delta-8-THC is no different.
Does Delta-8-THC Get You High?
Yes, delta-8-THC can get you high. The distinction between the two is at the molecular level, where a double carbon bond appears on the 8th carbon in the chain instead of the 9th. Current understanding is that this slight change in molecular shape may prevent delta-8 from binding with cell receptors as effectively as delta-9, which could account for its apparent reduced effects.
The benefit of this less efficient cellular bond appears to be a larger therapeutic window. Ideally, a medicinal drug is administered in a dose that is large enough to have positive effects, while remaining small enough that it minimizes negative effects. Delta-9-THC has a narrow therapeutic window, made more elusive by an individual’s tolerance, which can adjust over time. For example, three hits from a joint may be fine, but a fourth may ruin your afternoon. Since Delta-8 is less potent, then it has a larger therapeutic window, meaning the risk of overindulging should be lower.
Delta-8 Dosing and Tolerance
Delta-8-THC is THC, and is capable of delivering the same effects as its infamous – and still largely illegal – relative. Some estimates put the potency at about half of delta-9, and Peter Grinspoon, a physician at Harvard Medical School and a board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, estimated delta-8 is about two-thirds as potent as delta-9.
Most marijuana edibles offer 10mg of THC per serving. Using Grinspoon’s estimate then, we can infer that an equal dose of delta-8 will still be over half as strong as a “regular” edible. For people looking for relief from cannabis without the high, that can still pack quite a punch. Scale that up to 20-30mg for experienced consumers and you’re still introducing somewhere between 1 and 2 edible’s worth of fully armed THC in your system. For a lot of people, one edible can be very intense, two can feel extreme.
Overconsumption of Delta-8 will affect the consumer in similar ways to Delta-9. You will likely grow sleepy or lethargic, and experience increased appetite. And with enough of it you may eventually feel anxious or paranoid, but it may take a lot to get there.
The principle is similar to drinking low alcohol beer: people with a low tolerance can accidentally get drunk or sick from just a little bit, but for most people, it would take much more. Still, can it happen? Absolutely, yes.
Similar to delta-9, different consumption methods may lead to different effects. Vaping will lead to a more cerebral high with higher energy, and edibles can be expected to deliver more of a “body high.” Also, edible delta-8 may be more potent when eaten, just as delta-9 is.
By law, delta-8 products may contain no more than 0.3% of delta-9 THC, but as Andrea Steele of the cannabis business group at Coats Rose told the New York Times, “Adding another wrinkle, a lot of labs do not have the capability of delineating between Delta 8 and Delta 9.”
This means you may be getting more delta-9 than the manufacturer has labeled, or even knows. That’s no reason to panic, but simply understand that this is a very new product being sold with a sense of urgency while the DEA deliberates whether or not to clarify it as Schedule-1 marijuana.
Delta-8 THC is still THC, and first-time users or those with low tolerances should treat it the same way they would “normal” THC until they feel comfortable with it’s potency paired with their tolerance. The good news is that, ultimately, the effects are no different from what you can already expect from THC with a much lower risk of over-consuming and growing “high” or anxious.
For more answers about exactly what Delta-8-THC is, and what’s fueling its surge in popularity, check out PotGuide’s introduction to Delta-8.
What are your thoughts on delta-8 dosage? Discuss in the comments below!