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delta 8
August 5, 2021

Delta 9 THC vs. Delta 8 THC

Currently, most people word-associate “delta” with the most contagious form of COVID-19 virus. But the word has multiple meanings, in contexts from transportation (Delta Airlines) to geography (a delta wetland is an ecosystem formed where a river meets a larger body of water). And the world of drug use and abuse has the THC compounds, Delta 9 and Delta 8.

THC 101

“THC” is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. Its typical effects include:

  • Pain relief
  • A feeling of relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Impaired judgment
  • Hallucinations or paranoia
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • (For pregnant women) Increased risk of stillbirth
  • (If used carelessly over long periods) Damage to lungs, heart, or brain
  • (Another potential long-term effect) Development of testicular tumors

Unregulated use of marijuana/THC is always dangerous: as with alcohol, becoming too “high” is a frequent cause of dangerous accidents. And about 30 percent of regular users develop marijuana use disorder, a dependence that triggers mood swings and physical discomfort if THC use lessens.

Delta 9 or Delta 8?

THC’s “delta” forms are nearly identical in molecular structure, except for one double bond that links at the ninth carbon chain for Delta 9, the eighth for Delta 8. (There is also a Delta 10 THC, little researched to date.) Cannabis plants produce only Delta 9 in ample amounts for easy extraction: obtaining Delta 8 requires human intervention, which typically involves boiling cannabidiol (CBD) in a solvent-acid chemical mixture.

(Quick note: THC is notthe same as CBD, although they share a basic molecular structure. CBD occurs naturally in hemp as well as marijuana plants, and in pure form has no intoxicating effect—indeed, it’s sometimes taken with THC to reduce psychoactive problems from the latter.)

Delta 9 has long been the “standard” form of THC. Delta 8, however, is gaining popularity because it is half as potent and less likely to induce the more unpleasant forms of altered consciousness (e.g., paranoia and frightening hallucinations). Delta 8 also has a longer shelf life and a stronger appetite-stimulating effect—and, on the legal-vs.-illegal level, fewer restrictions on its sales.

So, Is Delta 8 Safe to Use?

There’s reasonable cause to argue that pure Delta 8 is safer than pure Delta 9, at least when used judiciously. Indeed, many consider Delta 8 the superior form of “medical marijuana” due to its lesser intoxicating effect and also its appetite-stimulating properties (the latter being an important consideration in cancer treatments).

Unfortunately, most over-the-counter Delta 8 products come with limited guarantees of purity. There’s little regulatory oversight of manufacturers (understandably, since laws regarding Delta 8 sales are notoriously varied). Chemists who have analyzed “Delta-8-THC” products from store shelves report that the vast majority are tainted with unidentified chemicals or alternate forms of THC. Also, despite Delta 8’s reputation for “anxiety-free” euphoria, many people who take large doses do have serious negative reactions.

The key rules for anyone considering either form of THC are:

  • Never take it (or any other drug) simply to get a recreational “high.” That’s the starting point for many addictions—and for many emergency and long-term health problems from consuming impure “street” products.
  • Never take THC in violation of the law.
  • Always get a doctor’s advice beforetaking THC, even where it’s obtainable over the counter. An M.D. familiar with yourhealth history is best qualified to advise on “whether” and “how much.” (This applies also to other drug products—including vitamin supplements—and even to diets and fitness regimens.)
  • If taking THC with a doctor’s approval, make sure to obtain it through doctor-recommended channels—and check with your doctor again before you increase regular doses for any reason, or if you notice any symptoms of chemical use disorder.

As with any consciousness-altering substance, all THC is to be handled with caution.

Help for All Kinds of Drug Addictions

Legal or illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter, any chemical substance may lead to dependence when used carelessly or excessively. Dependence and addiction have serious negative effects on health, relationships, and personal effectiveness: often, the ultimate effects are lethal. Beach House provides individualized treatment and a guided path to sobriety for all our clients. If you’re at all worried about your or a loved one’s substance use, contact us for details on how we can help.