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What Is Delta 8: 11 Facts About The Newest Marijuana Strain

December 27, 2021
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Clinically reviewed by Sahar Wahed RN

Table of Contents

Delta-8 THC structure

What Is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC or “delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol” is a psychoactive compound extracted from legal forms of the cannabis plant.

Delta-8 is a type of THC, which is the psychoactive compound in the cannabis sativa plant. The effects of delta-8 are similar to the more common THC compound called “delta-9 THC.” While not as potent as delta-9, teens and young adults might use delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC is extracted from legal CBD and hemp but has similar effects on the mind as delta-9 THC.

While CBD and hemp don’t have enough psychoactive compounds to get users “high,” they do contain trace amounts of delta-8 THC. The delta-8 THC can be extracted from these legal sources and sold along with other legal cannabis products.

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Why Is Delta-8 THC Legal?

Delta-8 THC is legal in most states because it is extracted from legal cannabis products like CBD and hemp.

Delta-8 THC has a similar chemical structure to the commonly known psychoactive compound delta-9 THC. Delta- 8 can be extracted from legal forms of cannabis. While delta-8 is not as potent as delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compounds affect the mind similarly.

Delta-8 is extracted from CBD, which is derived from a legal form of the cannabis plant, known as hemp.

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) authorized the production of hemp and removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances.”

Hemp refers to one variety of cannabis sativa plants with a low percentage of naturally occurring delta-9 THC. Hemp doesn’t have the same psychoactive chemicals present as the illegal form of cannabis, also called marijuana.

Since hemp-derived CBD is legal in most states, the CBD derivative delta-8 THC is also considered legal.

All cannabis products contain trace amounts of various cannabinoids, like delta-8 THC. In small amounts, delta-8 THC will not affect you. However, when this cannabinoid is extracted, it can be used in greater quantities and get users high.

Despite the legality of delta-8 THC, this cannabinoid can be concerning for parents of teens and young adults.

Cbd chemistry formula isolated illustration Chemistry icon

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that affect you when you use cannabis.

Cannabis plants contain many different cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are natural chemical compounds that affect the brain, body, and central nervous system.

The most prevalent and commonly known cannabinoids are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Hemp-derived CBD is legal in most states in the US and might be used for medicinal purposes. Cannabinoids like CBD are not psychoactive; however, THC is a psychoactive compound.

Delta-8 THC is just one of the many cannabinoids found naturally in cannabis plants. While not as prevalent as CBD or delta-9 THC, delta-8 is a psychoactive compound that can cause a “high” when smoked or ingested.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant.”

Minor cannabinoids, like delta-8, do not exist naturally in amounts large enough to have a significant effect when used. Yet, these cannabinoids exist in trace amounts in legal cannabis products. Minor cannabinoids can then be extracted from these legal products.

Due to the similar chemical structure to delta-9 THC, delta-8 can be addictive. While delta-8 THC is not as potent as delta-9, it mimics many of the same effects.

delta-8-thc-structure-teens-addiction

What Is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. 

Delta-9 THC causes a “high” when smoked or ingested and occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. However, some illegal cannabis products extract delta-9 THC in greater quantities to enhance the psychoactive effects.

Delta-9 THC is what you might think of when you hear the term “THC.”

THC or “tetrahydrocannabinol” is a cannabinoid that can cause euphoric feelings or even mild hallucinations. Delta-9 THC is usually just called “THC” because it is one of the most prevalent compounds in cannabis.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “THC’s chemical structure is similar to the brain chemical anandamide. Similarity in structure allows the body to recognize THC and to alter normal brain communication.”

While delta-9 THC occurs naturally in more significant quantities than other THC variants, other cannabinoids like delta-8 THC can be extracted for their psychoactive effects.

The only chemical difference between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is the location of a specific double bond within each molecular structure. The location of this double bond makes them similar, but delta-8 is not as potent as delta-9.

While delta-8 THC is not as prevalent as delta-9, delta-8 might be legal in most states since it is extracted from a legal cannabinoid called “CBD.” Since delta-8 is made from legal cannabis products, most state and federal laws allow retailers to sell it.

Cannabinoids and health, medical marijuana, CBD elements in Cannabis. Beautiful background of green hemp, place for copy space. Cannabis CBD oil (cannabidiol)

What Is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid that is legal in many states and used for medicinal purposes.

CBD or “cannabidiol” is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, along with THC. While CBD is legal in most states, it can contain trace amounts of psychoactive compounds like delta-8 THC.

Many CBD products are made from a legal form of cannabis called “hemp” and can be purchased legally throughout the US.

Though used for medical purposes, CBD products do not always require a prescription. You need to be at least 18 years old to buy CBD and other hemp-derived cannabis products in most states.

Products containing CBD can be found nearly everywhere, from retailers like malls and drug stores to gas stations and online stores. CBD comes in the form of edibles, gummies, vapes, oils, tablets, and topical creams.

CBD does not get you “high” like delta-8 or delta-9 THC.

Many federal and state laws now allow medical professionals to prescribe CBD as an alternative medicine to treat conditions like anxiety, pain, psychiatric issues, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.

However, the research on the effectiveness of CBD to treat these conditions remains limited.

While CBD does not get you high, CBD contains trace amounts of other cannabinoids with psychoactive properties. These cannabinoids can be extracted from CBD legally and act similarly to delta-9 THC. Delta-8 THC is a form of THC made from legal CBD.

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Is Delta-8 THC The Same As CBD?

Delta-8 THC is derived from CBD, but it is not the same.

Cannabis plants contain many different cannabinoids, which can affect you in different ways. Delta-9 THC and CBD are the most prevalent cannabinoids found in cannabis. However, minor cannabinoids like delta-8 THC can be extracted from hemp and CBD.

Delta-8 THC, though derived from CBD, is more similar to delta-9 THC. 

Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Delta-8 can make you feel high; however, the effects are less potent than delta-9.

While CBD and delta-8 THC are not the same, both come from a legal form of the cannabis plant called “hemp.”

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What Is The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants with different amounts of delta-9 THC.

Hemp plants are the same as marijuana, except hemp has a lower amount of the psychoactive compound delta-9 THC than marijuana. Both are forms of the cannabis sativa plant.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health (NCCIH), “‘marijuana’ refers to parts of or products from the plant Cannabis sativa that contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), “the FDA and DEA have concluded that marijuana has no federally approved medical use for treatment in the US and thus it remains as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.”

The NCCIH further explains that “[s]ome cannabis plants contain very little THC. Under US law, these plants are considered ‘industrial hemp’ rather than marijuana.”

In other words, hemp products like hemp-derived CBD are legal, but products made from marijuana are not.

Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabis industry can now sell most hemp-derived products legally. While these products might contain only trace amounts of THC, the THC can be extracted to create products with delta-8 THC.

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Will Delta-8 THC Lead To Using Other Substances?

Using delta-8 THC might lead to your teen using other substances.

As the teenage brain develops, your child is vulnerable to any substance that can “hijack” the feel-good chemicals that help to regulate emotions, mood, and behavior. Substances like delta-8 THC can be a shortcut your child might use to cope with stress or mental illness.

When teens abuse any substance, whether legal like delta-8 THC or illegal like marijuana, they are more likely to develop a substance use disorder as adults.

According to Youth.gov, “most adults who have a substance use disorder started using before age 18 and develop the disorder by age 20.” The use of any substance can alter neural pathways that are developing in the adolescent brain.

The brain does not fully develop until young adults are about 25 years old. When your teen starts using delta-8 or other substances, they might self-medicate for mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. They could also be coping with low self-esteem or stress.

When teens abuse delta-8 THC for its psychoactive effects, they aren’t learning healthy coping skills to manage underlying issues. This pattern of behavior alters the developing neural pathways, and your child is more likely to turn to substances to cope throughout life.

Since delta-8 THC is less potent than the delta-9 THC found in illegal marijuana, your teen might switch to using illegal marijuana if they develop a tolerance for the effects of delta-8.

The longer that your teen uses substances like delta-8, the effects get less potent over time. They could develop a tolerance, meaning they might need more and more delta-8 for the same effect.

When your teen develops a high tolerance, they might “chase” the initial high and find it with other substances. Chasing the initial impact could lead to illegal drugs, alcohol, or seeking the more potent delta-9 THC.

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Where Are Teens And Young Adults Buying Delta-8 THC Products?

Teens and young adults can buy delta-8 THC products nearly anywhere in most states.

Teens can purchase delta-8 in the same places as CBD. Legal cannabis products can be found in medical marijuana dispensaries, drug stores, shopping malls, specialty stores, tobacco shops, online, and gas stations.

Many retailers can sell delta-8 legally under the same laws that allow them to sell CBD products. While most state laws have age restrictions on these products, teens can get them easily from older teens or if store clerks do not ask for identification.

Delta-8 THC products come in similar forms as other legal cannabis products like CBD.

Both CBD and delta-8 can be sold in several different forms. These products might not even look like drugs and can easily be disguised as tobacco products or even cookies and candy.

Some of the most common delta-8 THC products that teens and young adults might use include:

  • Vaping devices, which can cause medical issues due to harmful by-products in vape cartridges
  • Tinctures, extracts, or vape liquids
  • Edibles, like gummies, candies, and cookies
  • Beverages that contain delta-8 THC

Side effects from the by-products in vape cartridges can be harmful, even if they don’t contain delta-8 THC. Vaping or using e-cigarettes is a rising trend among teens. Teens might vape to get nicotine, marijuana, CBD, delta-8 THC, or other substances.

Young boy in his messy room

How Can I Tell If My Teen Is Using Delta-8 THC?

You can tell if your teen is using delta-8 THC if you notice cannabis products or observe behavioral changes.

Since delta-8 can be vaped, you might notice different vaping products in your home. Some vaping devices can look like everyday objects, like pens, USB drives, regular cigarettes, or even built into hoodies or backpacks.

Vaping liquids often contain different flavors and scents in addition to nicotine, delta-8 THC, or CBD. You might smell some of these scents on your teen, in their car, or coming from their room. Vapes can smell like candy, fruit, mint, teas, tobacco, or desserts.

Since delta-8 THC is similar to delta-9, you might notice similar signs when your teen uses delta-8 THC products, such as:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Lower levels of motivation
  • Decreased performance in school
  • Isolating themselves from family and friends
  • Change in friendships
  • Skipping school or other disciplinary issues
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, and other activities
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Giddiness or excessive laughter
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and paranoia

When you notice changes in your teen’s behavior and mental state like this, they might be abusing delta-8 THC or other substances. When you see physical evidence, like the presence of vaping devices and these behaviors, your child could be using cannabis products.

Teens go through many changes into young adulthood. However, if you notice significant changes that appear problematic, your child might have substance abuse or an underlying mental health issue.

Always discuss any concerns with a healthcare provider, as some behavioral and mental health issues could be rooted in medical problems.

If you determine that your child is abusing delta-8 THC products, you might want to consider getting them into inpatient or outpatient treatment. When your teen continues to abuse or misuse substances, the problems might worsen as they get older.

Young women smoking electronic cigarette.

Does My Child Need Treatment For Delta-8 THC Use?

Your child might need treatment if they are abusing delta-8 THC or other substances.

Despite the legality of delta-8 THC, cannabis products containing delta-8 can be highly addictive. Teens and young adults are much more vulnerable to developing an addiction than older adults.

Many treatment centers offer inpatient and outpatient services depending upon the severity of your child’s substance abuse. 

When delta-8 use creates issues with other substances and behavioral problems, you want to get ahead of these issues early on. The sooner you get your child to stop using delta-8 successfully, they will be less likely to develop a substance use disorder later in life.

Signs that your teen needs treatment for delta-8 THC or other substances include:

  • Failed attempts to cut back or quit
  • Legal issues resulting from substance use
  • Decreased physical and mental wellness
  • Developing mental health and mood disorders from substance abuse
  • Persistent disciplinary problems at school that could lead to expulsion
  • A lack of motivation or interest in developing a future

When substances like delta-8 hijack your teen’s brain, your child might struggle during adolescence and into adulthood. You can reach out to treatment centers if you are concerned about an emerging or worsening teen substance abuse issue.

Treatment centers can offer support, resources, therapy, skill-building, and other services to help your child develop healthy habits as they grow into young adults.

The new marijuana strain delta-8 THC might be legal in most states, but its use can still develop into future substance abuse or mental health issues. Sandstone Care is here to support teens and young adults with substance use disorders. Call (855) 958-5511.

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