Delta-8 THC Consumers Consider it “Delta-9’s Nicer Sibling,” Survey Finds
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Delta-8 THC products provide all the benefits of delta-9 THC but with fewer adverse effects, according to the results of a new consumer survey published in the Journal of Cannabis Research and Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
The survey is the largest-ever study on user experiences with delta-8 THC to date, and includes feedback from more than 500 delta-8 THC product consumers.
Despite the growing popularity of delta-8 THC products, there has been very little research describing the effects of this cannabinoid or evaluating its safety. This consumer survey is an important starting point for delta-8 THC research, the study authors say, as it highlights a number of important themes for future research and public health policies.
Delta-8 THC provides all the benefits of delta-9 with fewer adverse reactions
Delta-8 THC has a slightly different molecular structure to its more famous relative, delta-9 THC (commonly known as THC), which helped it initially evade many of the rules and restrictions that govern the sale THC in the US. Yet delta-8 can still induce highs comparable to its more prohibited cousin.
Naturally, then, many US states – particularly the states that still prohibit cannabis sales – have experienced a boom in delta-8 THC popularity over the past year or so.
To assess what consumers think of the popular THC product, researchers from the University of Michigan and New York’s University at Buffalo, in partnership with the Buffalo-based cannabinoid product manufacturer Bison Botanics, conducted an online consumer survey via social media in the summer of 2021.
It was completed by a total of 521 people across 38 states. The respondents were asked to indicate the strength of various drug effects listed by selecting one of five possible options: “not at all”, “a little”, “a moderate amount”, “a lot”, and “a great deal.”
The survey also asked participants to rate how the intensity and duration of delta-8 THC effects felt compared to any previous experience with delta-9 THC. More open-ended questions concerning the comparison of delta-8 THC to delta-9 THC and the participants’ general views on related topics were also included, in order to broadly survey the feelings of delta-8 THC consumers.
“Because this is one of the first studies of its kind on delta-8-THC and so many states have changed their legislation, we wanted to really explore what people felt as they were using it compared to delta-9-THC,” study author Jessica Kruger, PhD, a clinical assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a statement.
“We found that people who are utilizing delta-8-THC feel fewer negative side effects, and they are using it in modalities that are safer, like vaping or edibles or using topically.”
Most of the delta-8 THC consumers reported feeling “a lot” or “a great deal” of relaxation, pain relief, and euphoria when using delta-8 THC products, with “a moderate amount” or “a lot” of cognitive distortion (difficulty concentrating or short-term memory issues) being the most frequently reported unpleasant effect. Despite this, users largely said that they felt able to complete normal daily activities under the influence of delta-8 THC without being bothered by other adverse side effects normally associated with cannabis use, such as paranoia, anxiety, or the munchies.
Edible gummies and vaped concentrated were the most commonly reported methods of consumption overall. Participants also frequently reported using delta-8 THC as a substitute for delta-9 THC products (57 percent of respondents) or for pharmaceutical drugs (59 percent).
Many consumers are using delta-8 THC for medical purposes
Roughly half of the study respondents indicated using delta-8 THC to address a health problem or medical condition. Primarily, this was anxiety or panic attacks (69 percent), followed by stress (52 percent), depression or bipolar disorder (46 percent), or chronic pain (41 percent).
Despite this, nearly four in five respondents who were using delta-8 THC medicinally said that they had not informed their primary health provider of their delta-8 use; many were not confident about their care provider’s ability to integrate medical cannabis into their treatment. Knowledge of effective dosages within the consumer group was low; most consumers reported that their knowledge about delta-8 THC came from the internet or from previous personal experiences.
Ninety percent of respondents were based in states where commercial access to delta-9 THC cannabis products is prohibited. Interestingly, the largest concern reported by the consumers in this survey regarded their continued access to delta-8 THC products.
While the legal status of delta-8 THC is still somewhat open to debate, hemp-derived delta-8 THC can be purchased from many outlets across the US, as the 2018 farm bill effectively legalized hemp-derived cannabinoids. While delta-8 THC has been banned in 14 US states, six of these states allow recreational cannabis use, ten allow medical cannabis use, and the remaining three have decriminalized recreational use.
“It’s paradoxical that different states and municipalities are opening up to delta-9, it’s becoming more available and increasingly legalized, and yet they’re putting the brakes on delta-8, even though it seems to have a better profile in terms of its effects,” said study co-author Daniel Kruger, PhD, a research investigator in the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.
“It’s almost like the opposite of what you would do if you were informed of the evidence.”
More research urgently needed
The confusing legal status of delta-8 THC and the continued federal prohibition of delta-9 THC and other cannabis products has made it difficult for scientific researchers to conduct studies investigating the safety and/or therapeutic applications of many cannabinoids.
The researchers behind this latest study say that it is critical for further research into delta-8 THC to be done, so that future policies and practices may minimize the risks and harms to users. For example, in one of the research papers, they suggest that delta-8 THC might one day be used as a harm reduction measure to replace delta-9 THC, as it appears to present less harmful adverse effects.
“While delta-8-THC appears to have some really big, positive attributes, we need to know more, and we should be cautious with any product that’s hitting the market unregulated and untested,” Dr Jessica Kruger said. “More research needs to be done because this could be a possible way to reduce harm for those who are using cannabis, and for people to have fewer negative reactions.”
The findings of this study – that delta-8 THC generally carries lower risks while still providing many of the same beneficial effects as delta-9 THC – needs to be confirmed with carefully controlled studies, the authors say. They suggest that other future avenues for research could include studying the behavior of replacing pharmaceutical drugs with delta-8 THC, as seen in this survey, or conducting similar surveys on a more population-representative sample than was seen here.
“There’s this huge boom in cannabis related research now, just as there is in the cannabis industry, but there are still so many unknowns,” said Dr Daniel Kruger.
“Delta-8-THC came to market largely after the Farm Bill and everyone was saying, ‘We don't know anything about this. As researchers, if the challenge is ‘we don't know enough about this,’ the answer is ‘well, let's study it’ because all policies should be informed by empirical evidence.”