Under construction 06/09/2021
Delta-8 THC deep dive
Eloise Theisen, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, Leaf411 CNO
Whittney Wacker, BSN, RN, Leaf411 Agent
Delta 8 THC - Delta 8 Tetrahydrocannabinol-
In recent months, questions have been coming into the hotline regarding Delta-8 THC. Hemp CBD companies have been adding this cannabinoid to their menus and offering a new cannabinoid option. Even though Delta-8 THC is readily available, education around this cannabinoid is lacking. Consumers are confused and want to know if it is impairing, what it is used for, if it is legal, and whether or not they will fail a drug test. So what is Delta-8 and why is it popping up everywhere? Here is what consumers need to know…
Radicle Health (1) describes Delta-8 THC as an isomer (same formula but a different arrangement of atoms) of Delta-9 THC with subtle differences. We know that Delta-8 THC interacts with our endocannabinoid system (attaches to the CB1 and CB2 receptors just like Delta-9), and research suggests that it is about 2/3rd's as potent as Delta-9 THC (2). It is likely that consuming Delta-8 THC will produce similar euphoric and impairing effects to Delta-9 THC. Consumers may also experience dizziness, drowsiness, increased appetite, feelings of relaxation, dry eyes and dry mouth.
Research on the medicinal benefits of Delta-8 THC is sparse. A total of nine studies have been completed. Five animal studies, 2 meta analyses, one lab study and one human trial with eight patients. Those studies looked at Delta-8 THC to treat pain, inflammation, nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation and the majority were inconclusive. With limited data, it is difficult to draw conclusions as to whether Delta-8 THC is effective at treating pain, inflammation, appetite and nausea and vomiting. Yet we see claims all over the internet promoting Delta-8 THC for a variety of conditions. The truth is, the evidence is not there to support most of these claims!
Despite the lack of evidence, Delta-8 THC products have hit the market and consumer interest has exploded. Products range from gummies, vapes, flowers and tinctures mostly available on-line or through local retailers. Delta-8 THC is being sold under the Farm Bill of 2018 (3) which legalized hemp. Whether or not this is legal is still a bit of a gray area. The Farm Bill does not allow for synthetic cannabinoids and the current process for the majority of Delta-8 THC on the market goes through a synthetic process converting CBD to Delta-8 THC. Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stated in an Interim Final Rule, that synthetically derived substances are a schedule I drug (4).
It is important to know your state laws on Cannabis and Hemp. Not all states allow for the sale or shipping of cannabinoids and as long as it is federally illegal, Some states have started to enact legislation banning Delta-8 THC. Here is a list of states that do not allow Delta-8 THC:
- Rhode Island
According to Project CBD (5) "Nearly all the Delta-8 on the market today is produced by chemically tweaking CBD in a laboratory. In other words, it is not directly extracted from the hemp plant but is synthesized from CBD that is directly extracted from the plant." Delta-8 THC is found naturally in the cannabis plant, but only in small amounts. In order to get the larger amounts of Delta-8 THC found in vapes, gummies and tinctures, CBD is converted to an isolate. From there, a solvent is added to liquify the isolate and an acid reagent is added to create a chemical reaction that produces the Delta-8 THC (6). The final product is a distillate and it is likely that the final product can have higher amounts of Delta-9 THC. In order to comply with the Farm Bill of 2018, the Delta-9 THC must be 0.3% or less at dry weight. Products that have levels higher than that, must go through additional processing to get the Delta-9 THC levels compliant.
Testing for Delta-8 THC in products and people is another gray area. In a recent report by Leaf report, they tested 38 products to see how much Delta-8 THC was in the product. Twelve out of the 38 products tested within 10% of the label claim which represents 32% of the total products tested. Additionally, of the 38 products, 20 of them tested above the legal limit for Delta-9 THC. When looking at companies who are selling Delta-8 THC, be sure to choose ones that provide a certificate of analysis (COA). Without a COA, it is hard to know how much Delta-9 THC or other cannabinoids may be in the product. The COA is the best way to verify the claims made on the company website.
The biggest question that remains is whether consuming Delta-8 THC will lead to a positive urine drug test. If you look on the internet, you will find a variety of blogs that claim you will and others that claim you will not. Some of these websites state that all forms of THC can be detected in a urine drug screen and it doesn’t matter whether it is Delta-9 or Delta-8. However, there is no science to validate this claim. It gets even more complicated when you consider that most Delta-8 THC are synthetic. Synthetic cannabinoids are not likely to be detected in a urine drug screen (7). At this time, it is difficult to say with certainty whether current drug panels will detect Delta-8 THC in the urine. There is a chance that the product may contain levels of Delta-9 THC that would be detected in a urine drug screen. Until we know more about testing for Delta-8 THC, it is important to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming cannabinoids if you cannot afford to fail a drug screen.
Consumer interest and use has outpaced education and research, once again. While it appears that Delta-8 THC is similar to Delta-9 THC, there are still a lot of unknowns with regard to side effects, dosing and clinical applications. For those who are still curious and want to explore Delta-8 THC, be sure to look for products that are lab tested and always start low and slow. As the science emerges, our nurses on the Leaf411 hotline will be ready to educate and update consumers on this potentially therapeutic cannabinoid.