Recently, you may have heard of the newest marijuana derivative called Delta-8 THC. It is becoming more widely utilized all over the world and especially here in the U.S. But what is Delta-8 exactly? To put it simply, it is a mind-altering substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant (aka marijuana). Before falling into all the hype, there are some key things you should know about Delta-8.

Delta-8 vs Delta-9

When people typically think of the component of marijuana that causes a “high”, they are thinking of Delta-9 THC. While it is currently not legal nationally in the US, many states have legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana. So, what are some of the main differences and similarities between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC? 

Delta-9 THCDelta-8 THC
FDA approved for some cannabis derived/related drug productsNot approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
More potent than Delta-8Less potent than Delta-9
Discovered around 500BC Discovered in 1940’s
Known risks with use Unknown risks with use

Both Delta-8 and Delta-9

  • Similar chemical makeup
  • Gives you a “high” with similar effects
  • Can be consumed in various forms (edibles, smoking, etc.)
  • Can be legal or illegal to sell/possess/use depending on the state you are in
  • Can cause adverse effects
  • Can cause failure of a THC drug test

Why is the FDA Concerned about Delta-8 THC?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for protecting the nation’s public health by ensuring safety, efficacy, and security of drugs, vaccines, and medical devices, as well the safety of our food supply. The FDA’s primary concern with Delta-8 is not having enough research to know what the potential risks and consequences are associated with its use, especially long-term.  

Due to Delta-8 being unregulated, there is no guarantee to what exactly you are purchasing/consuming. This means that there is a chance that it might be contaminated with harmful chemicals or other substances. The strength/potency of it may differ than how it’s labeled, as well. 

Dangers of Delta-8

Much of the danger of Delta-8 lies in the fact that we know very little about it due to the limited amount of research that has been conducted. In addition, there have recently been adverse effects reported with use of Delta-8. These include but are not limited to:  

  • Vomiting  
  • Hallucinations  
  • Trouble standing  
  • Loss of consciousness  

Some of these adverse effects can even result in hospitalization. Here are some important statistics from Florida Poison Centers and the FDA:   

  • In 2021, Florida Poison Centers (statewide) received 179 reported exposure calls related to the use of Delta-8 THC.  
  • Nationally, poison control centers received 661 exposure cases of Delta-8 THC products between Jan 2018 and July 31, 2021 
    • 18% required hospitalizations, including children who required intensive care unit (ICU) admission as a result of exposure to these products.  

Legality

As you may know, (Delta-9) marijuana is not legal Florida for recreational use. However, residents can use it for medicinal purposes as long as they obtain an authorized medical marijuana card.  As of the writing of this post, the purchase and use of Delta-8 THC in Florida is legal for those 21 and older, though these laws are subject to change.  

As a USF student, it is important to remember that marijuana in all forms is prohibited on campus property (including Residence Halls), even if you have a medical card. Those found in violation of this policy are subject to University sanctions. If you have further questions, please refer to the USF Student Code of Conduct

To Use or Not to Use?

You risk your health and safety by using any kind of drugs. Many commonly used drugs, such as alcohol, come with certain “known risks” such as liver disease and alcohol poisoning, especially when consumed in excess. With Delta-8 THC, however, there are many “unknown risks”. Since the product is so new and unregulated, there isn’t enough evidence to know that what you are using is safe and what the long-term risks may be.  

To avoid these unknown risks, it is better to seek out safer, better-regulated alternatives, or avoid use all together. 

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8 is not evaluated and approved for safe use by the FDA.  
  • Delta-8 may contain unsafe chemicals.  
  • Delta-8 can cause adverse effects and/or lead to hospitalization.  
  • Although it contains less THC, delta-8 is still psychoactive. 
  • You can fail a THC drug test while using delta-8. 

Resources for More Information

FDA (2021). 5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc  

Grinspoon, P. (2021). Beyond CBD: Here come the other cannabinoids, but where’s the evidence? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/beyond-cbd-here-come-the-other-cannabinoids-but-wheres-the-evidence-2021032322190  

Is Delta-8 safe? Everything you need to know about the new cannabinoid on the block. (2021). Campus Well.  https://stpt.campuswell.com/delta-8-thc/#1629819925723-4a26b169-e7b8  

Rae, A. (2021). Is Delta-8 THC Safe? Learn About the Risks, Side Effects, and How to Spot It. GoodRx. https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/substance-use/is-delta-8-thc-safe