What Is The Difference Between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC? THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the best-known psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Learn about the effects, benefits, and risks of THC.
What Is The Difference Between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC?
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Many people seek out THC for the numerous benefits that it provides, although it’s also popular on a purely recreational level. However, there might be some confusion about the different types of THC that are available now.
What’s the big difference between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC? In this article we set the record straight about these two cannabinoid compounds.
But first, before we get into the details, here is our list of the top Delta 8 products on the market right now.
Top Delta 8 Products
Delta 9 THC is a major cannabinoid that can be found in abundance in cannabis. Extraction is usually fairly cheap and simple as a result. It tends to be derived from marijuana plants specifically.
On the other hand, the extraction of Delta 8 THC requires a great deal more effort. That’s because Delta 8 is a minor cannabinoid. Cannabis produces so little natural Delta 8, it’s not worth the immense effort to extract it.
Luckily, there’s another way to produce Delta 8. It was found that Delta 8 can be synthesized entirely from CBD with the use of solvents. While the conversion process can be a bit pricey, it has made creating Delta 8 products much easier. As a result, most Delta 8 comes from hemp rather than marijuana. It also ensures that their concentrations contain under 0.3% Delta 9 THC, which is the threshold required for federal legality.
One of the major differences between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC is the effects that they produce. This is typically the deciding factor for most people who are uncertain about which one they want to take.
Delta 9 is considerably more potent than Delta 8. Some believe it to be about twice as strong overall. Side effects are also more considerable with Delta 9. These can include paranoid delusions, mental fog, impaired motor skills, and increased feelings of anxiety.
In comparison, Delta 8 is reported to provide a much easier experience. Most users feel a great sense of calm and clarity. Many have reported a definite “high” to the experience, but not enough to impair the ability to form coherent thoughts or focus on activities. Instead, you simply feel more relaxed and less burdened by stress.
The length of time it takes to feel the effects also separates Delta 8 and Delta 9. Delta 8 works slowly and gradually as it eases users into a more mellow state. Meanwhile, Delta 9’s onset is more rapid and instantaneous.
The two cannabinoids are pretty similar in terms of products. They can be smoked as a flower, inhaled through vaping, or consumed in edible form. There’s also a wide variety of topicals, capsules, tinctures, edibles and other products.
As you probably know, marijuana is not legal on a federal level within the United States. The push for legality has been largely left up to the individual states. So far 34 states have legalized it for medical or recreational use.
The legal fate of Delta 9 THC has been directly affected as a result. Any amounts over 0.3% are not legal at a federal level, and the state level depends entirely on their local marijuana laws.
However, Delta 8 is still technically legal on a federal level. That’s because of the ambiguities of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp production. There is nothing within the bill that prohibits deriving Delta 8 from hemp and creating products with the compound.
The psychoactive nature of Delta 8 has prompted a fair number of bans at the state level, though. Currently there are 15 states that restrict the sale and use of Delta 8 products, with another 6 states where legal action is pending.
So while Delta 8 is more widespread at the moment than Delta 9, how long that will last has yet to be determined.
If you happen to live in a state where you can safely buy and consume Delta 9 THC, then congratulations. Head on down to your local dispensary to get what you need. Online options are a bit more limited though, given that shipping across state lines is prohibited.
The availability of Delta 8 is a different situation. Since it’s federally legal, Delta 8 can be shipped across state lines. So there are a lot more online retailers for Delta 8 products as a result. However, most reputable companies will not ship to states where Delta 8 is illegal for obvious reasons.
Delta 8 can also be bought from physical locations. This is where you might want to exert a degree of caution.
For instance, you probably don’t want to buy it from a gas station or any sketchy shops. Like other supplements, Delta 8 products are not regulated by the FDA, which means there’s an abundance of low quality products that could contain a myriad of unwanted impurities.
Whenever you buy Delta 8, it should be by a recognizable and trustworthy brand. If they don’t have a website with information about their production process, as well as lab results available on demand, then you should dismiss them entirely. For more info and options to buy can be found here .
The choice between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC ultimately comes down to your personal needs and desires. While they share a handful of similarities, there’s enough considerable differences between them to set them apart.
While Delta 9 might be considered the “classic” choice by some within the cannabis community, Delta 8 has been quickly gaining in popularity due to its milder effects and legal availability. In time it might even become the preferred form of THC for most users.
Lastly, if you are looking to improve your health and energy you need to look at sleep as well. There are lots of way to improve your sleep . According to studies better sleep can lead to better concentration, more energy, faster metabolism and lower inflammation. All in all, good sleep will help you get the most out of the products above and set you up for long-term success on your health journey.
What Is THC?
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.
What Is THC?
THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC). It is a cannabinoid molecule in marijuana (cannabis) that’s long been recognized as the main psychoactive ingredient—that is, the substance that causes people who use marijuana to feel high.
THC is just one of more than 500 different substances—and 100 different cannabinoid molecules—in marijuana. Although THC is the most recognized, another important cannabinoid molecule that has received major interest is cannabidiol (CBD).
History of THC
Cannabis has a long history of use that dates back thousands of years. The first recorded use of cannabis has been traced to China, where it was used for food, textiles, and medicine. Hemp was eventually introduced to Europe and later to the Americas, where it was used for both recreational and ritual purposes.
Cannabis was introduced to what is now the United States during the 1600s. Hemp was grown to produce textiles and sometimes even used as legal tender. It was used for a number of medical purposes as well, with its recreational use beginning to grow during the 1930s and 1940s.
Around this time, anti-drug campaigns were instituted against its use and many states passed laws prohibiting marijuana. The 1936 film “Reefer Madness” portrayed marijuana as a dangerous drug that led to psychosis, violence, and suicide.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, identifying it as having a high potential for abuse and making the drug illegal at the federal level. The “war on drugs” launched during the 1970s led to the large-scale incarceration of many people for marijuana possession and use.
Statistics suggest that the enforcement and penalization of marijuana laws disproportionately target people of color. While drug use has similar rates for people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, Black and Latinx people are far more likely to be arrested and jailed for drug offenses.
While it is still not legal at the federal level, many states have approved the use of cannabis and THC for medical and, in some states, recreational purposes. Always check state laws before purchasing any products containing THC.
How THC Works
THC works by attaching to the body’s cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the brain and nervous system. THC can be detected in the body much longer than most other drug compounds, although the psychoactive effects only last a few hours.
THC is stored in body fat and organs for three to four weeks. Hair follicle testing may identify THC after even longer periods of time, around 90 days. Urine testing is often used but has been found to be an unreliable method of detection.
Forms of THC
THC is often smoked as marijuana (dried leaves of the Cannabis plant), but there are actually a number of different ways it can be used. THC can be consumed by:
- Inhalation: This is the fastest method of delivery and produces the quickest psychoactive effects, often within minutes. THC can be inhaled via smoking, vaping, or dabbing. Recent reports suggest that vaping THC oil may pose safety risks that warrant further investigation.
- Oral ingestion: THC can be taken by mouth in the form of capsules, edibles, tinctures, or oils. While this method of delivery takes longer to have an effect, the drug’s effects tend to last longer.
- Topical application: THC can also be included in lotions, balms, salves, oils, and bath salts that are then applied to the skin. The effects of this method are usually localized, which means that they are unlikely to have psychoactive effects. However, such products may be helpful for reducing pain and inflammation.
- Sublingual administration: THC can also be consumed as lozenges, sprays, or dissolvable strips that are placed under the tongue and dissolved.
THC in CBD Products
With the popularity of CBD, there has been a major market shift toward producing a seemingly endless variety of CBD products. Some of these products may contain traces of THC (around 0.3% to 0.9%), depending on how they’re formulated.
This small concentration is highly unlikely to result in a high feeling, and some experts argue that the effectiveness of CBD is potentiated by small amounts of THC. However, if you’re looking for a CBD product without any THC, be sure to select one that uses third-party testing to certify the purity of the product.
Uses of THC
THC is used recreationally, but it has a number of medicinal uses as well. Marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, although scientific research on its use to alleviate and treat illness is still relatively recent.
Some of the ailments that THC may help include:
The FDA has also approved the synthetic THC medication dronabinol (sold under the brand names Marinol and Syndros) and a drug containing a synthetic substance similar to TCH known as nabilone (brand name Cesamet). Dronabinol is used to treat vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy and low appetite and weight loss caused by HIV/AIDS. Nabilone is also used to treat nausea and vomiting.
Impact of THC
THC stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain, which is what causes feelings of euphoria. Although, the effects on the body can vary from one person to the next.
People using THC may experience:
- Altered perception of time
- Feelings of relaxation
- Heightened sensory perception
- Increased appetite
While it can cause pleasant effects, TCH can also lead to adverse reactions as well. Some of the most common include coughing fits, anxiety, and paranoia, along with chest or lung discomfort, and “body humming.” Some people also experience fainting, hallucinations, or cold sweats due to THC use.
Potential Pitfalls of THC
There is considerable research-based evidence that THC is associated with an increased risk of psychosis, both among adolescents and adults. It is also linked to increased anxiety, learning impairment, and decreased memory formation.
CBD has been found to help counter these effects, reducing anxiety, improving learning ability, and working as an antipsychotic—although much of the available research is on animals. When taken together, as is the case with marijuana use, CBD seems to reduce the negative effects of THC.
A 2013 meta-analysis, which is a type of study that looks at the results of many previous studies, also found some evidence that THC may be neurotoxic as there are differences in the brain structure of people who regularly use marijuana (and who do not have psychosis).
One interesting point underscoring brain changes: While research has shown a reduction in gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex of people with a history of heavy marijuana use, there is an apparent compensatory response. The density of fibrous connections among remaining neurons increases, which may cancel out some or all of the neurotoxicity.
Research into the effects of THC (or delta-9-THC) is complicated by many factors, but there is sufficient evidence that THC can be harmful, particularly to younger people whose brains are still developing. They should, therefore, avoid frequent marijuana use.
Is Delta-9 THC Addictive?
Cannabis is the most commonly used federally illegal substance in the United States. Despite the common belief that the drug is not addictive, THC tolerance and dependence (precursors to addiction) have been widely documented.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 30% of people who use marijuana will become addicted—and using the drug prior to age 18, when the brain is still developing, increases the likelihood of cannabis use disorder four- to seven-fold.
Similar to other types of addiction, cannabis use disorder involves a preoccupation with the drug, bingeing, and symptoms of withdrawal when it cannot be used. Additional criteria for diagnosing an addiction include experiencing constant cravings and having drug-related relationship and social issues.
Amount of THC in Marijuana
Americans are definitely not dealing with the same pot as in the past. This is because today’s marijuana is much more potent, with THC concentration levels increasing from 9.75% in 2009 to 13.88% in 2019.
For comparison purposes, the THC content of marijuana back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s was under 2%, increasing to around 4% in the 1990s. Additionally, some strains today have an even higher content, such as a strain called “Girl Scout Cookie” that contains as much as 28% THC.
The amount of THC contained in marijuana varies by the way that the cannabis is prepared for use, such as leaf/bud, hashish, or hashish oil. THC levels may exceed 50% in products made from marijuana extracts.
How to Get Help
If you or a loved one wants to stop using THC but are finding this difficult, several options exist. Treatments for cannabis use disorder that show promise for providing positive results include:
, which helps people identify and correct behaviors associated with drug use
- Contingency management, a treatment approach that involves receiving rewards when a desired behavior occurs (or does not occur) , which promotes an internal desire for change and motivation to engage in treatment
While some suggest that drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) may help treat cannabis use disorder, evidence is lacking due to small study sizes and varying methods of assessing treatment outcomes.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.