What exactly is Delta-8-THC and is it safe to buy?


When it comes to legal highs, it is important for people to know what they are getting into.

Dennis Caus is a student here who is planning to be the president of an upcoming organization that discusses drugs and safe use.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have likely heard about the craze around the new “legal high” known as Delta-8-THC. You may have seen it in an article, sold in stores, or perhaps even know someone who has tried it.

Now that it is becoming more widely available and gaining popularity, some people are wondering what exactly Delta-8-THC is, and rightfully so. When it comes to legal highs, it is important for people to know what they are getting into.

In short, Delta-8-THC is a cannabinoid produced from CBD extracts that are sourced from hemp plants. Structurally, it is very close to Delta-9-THC, which is the primary active ingredient in traditional cannabis. It is sold in similar mediums such as vape pens and edibles, and reportedly produces similar effects as Delta-9-THC.

The reason for its legality is because it is sourced from legal hemp plants which are primarily used to make CBD. However, just because it is legal does not automatically mean it is safe. It is crucial that people first understand what this compound is, how it is made, and how safe it is from current research before they make a decision on if they should use it or not.

So what is it and how is it made?

Delta-8-THC is a derivative of CBD that is produced through tweaking its chemistry after it has been made into an extract. To create Delta-8-THC out of CBD extract, a process called isomerization is required. This is the process of taking a molecule, in this case CBD, and turning it into an isomer, which is essentially the same molecule, but with a different positioning of its atoms. The end result is Delta-8-THC.

Graphic by Dennis Caus.

As you can see, CBD and Delta-8-THC are close in structure, but the process of isomerization produces a molecule closer to that of Delta-9-THC which is thought to be the reason they have similar effects.

The way isomerization is done in this case is relatively simple, only using heat and pressure to alter the structure of the molecule. If done correctly, the end product should in theory have the same safety profile of Delta-9-THC. There has not been enough research done on it to confirm this though, so take it with a grain of salt.

How safe is it?

While the chemical Delta-8-THC itself seems to have relatively the same safety profile as Delta-9-THC, it unfortunately does not mean much to consumers. This is a very new market, and there is little if any quality control happening to ensure that the products being sold do not contain any potentially harmful contents such as heavy metals or pesticides.

Consumers should express extreme caution if purchasing Delta-8-THC products and ensure that their products are lab tested for contaminants and the results can be easily found somewhere on the product. If the product is not lab-tested, it is safest to not ingest it as there is not much information on the long-term effects that potential contaminants may have.

The current market, at least locally, seems to consist of products that appear to be low quality and lack any sort of lab tests. At the current moment, it is best to wait until more regulation is enacted to ensure that the products being sold and consumed are safe.

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