Delta-8, also known as “Delta-8-THC” or “Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol” is gaining buzz as an alternative in states where THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is illegal.
The advent of cannabis legalization in many states led to the appearance of the plant’s derivatives in various products, whether for medical or recreational use. Examples of these products are THC and CBD (cannabidiol) varieties.
While we may be familiar with major cannabinoids like Delta-9-THC, we barely know the foundational knowledge of minor cannabinoids like Delta-8, and yet we use them.
So what is Delta-8? Is it a niche in the cannabis industry justifiably compared to other more established cannabinoids such as CBD?
Let’s find out.
What is Delta-8?
Bear with us as this may get a little technical. Nonetheless, it’ll be quick.
Delta-8 is a psychoactive cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant. The number “8” in Delta-8 indicates where a double bond occurs in its chemical structure.
So for Delta-9, the double bond occurs in the 9th carbon atom, while for Delta-8, it is in the 8th. While this difference in chemical structure seems small, it sets Delta-8 apart from other cannabinoids in terms of how it interacts with the human body.
Nevertheless, Delta-8 and Delta-9 still have striking chemical similarities. This makes them exhibit slightly similar psychoactive effects, albeit Delta-8’s effects are less potent. This is evident in anecdotal reports describing Delta-8’s effects to be identical to Delta-9 but mellower.
Note: Delta-9’s inclusion to the discussion is essential to aid in understanding the nature of Delta-8.
Delta-8’s side effects and safety
The oral administration of Delta-8 may produce side effects characterized by dry mouth, visual distortions, incoordination, dizziness and other effects mimicking Delta-9′s. Researchers noted that the severity of these symptoms is slightly weaker than Delta-9 in some individuals. Other individuals have absolutely no side effects at all.
To properly establish Delta-8’s safety, one must heavily rely on clinical and randomized controlled trials, but even that substantial information is scarce to nothing.
Note: For context, clinical and randomized controlled trial is a type of scientific experiment performed on people. The subjects are randomly grouped to compare different treatments or other interventions.
Are there substantial preliminary studies on the work about Delta-8’s safety then?
Yep. Since 1970, over 200 peer-reviewed papers have been published regarding Delta-8’s safety and tolerance.
One often-cited study describes Delta-8 to have induced slight irritability to two subjects and one case of euphoria.
Delta-8 review: What is the medical community’s stance on Delta-8’s safety?
The medical community’s stance on Delta-8 is mixed, but most of them unite to the argument that the compound’s scarcity of verified clinical studies makes its safety profile questionable.
More often than not, the effects of Delta-8 are taken from anecdotal sources, which doesn’t really help, especially if you’re keen on facts.
Peter Grinspoon, a physician at Harvard Medical School, tells Inverse, “What we do see about it are little keys to its vast potential, but we don’t really know because there haven’t been that many studies.”
Professor Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University’s Department of Psychology seconds Grinspoon’s statement from Inverse, saying, “We still don’t have a clear picture of Delta-9-THC, even less so with Delta-8-THC.”
There is also the concern of Delta-8 being synthetically made. “The main source these days seems to be in the lab, turning CBD into it,” says Dr. Ethan Russo of CReDO Science, in a statement to Cannabis Business Times.
Medical experts strongly advise against the use of synthetically-produced cannabinoids as some sources, such as bathtub chemists, could be highly unregulated.
Overall, the medical community simply wants people to stick to Science and not be deluded with overly-hyped claims.
The best alternatives to Delta-8 aside from Delta-9-THC
Does Delta-8 have a fighting chance against the more established cannabinoids in the market? Market-wise, probably, especially if the intention is recreation. But would you risk it?
If you’re looking for cannabis-derived compounds to include in your wellness routine, it’s best to stick to the tried and tested in the industry.
Chief among these established compounds is CBD, which has an overwhelming research back-up regarding safety profile. Likewise, you can check the market for similar cannabinoid-based products like CBN and CBG.
The complete answer to the question “What is Delta-8” is still technically an ongoing affair.
As more studies unveil their results, the more we will understand what Delta-8 is. However, until then, the answers we have now point to Delta-8 posing more risk than benefit.
As is the case, it would be better to err on the side of safety and use tried and tested cannabinoids. And, as always, consult a professional to find the best cannabinoid for you.