Is Delta-8 THC Safe? Recent Health Reports Paint a Darker Picture
Delta-8 THC might not be as safe as we thought. When the product first appeared on the market, hemp CBD manufacturers and consumers alike were delighted. Milder intoxication, similar reported health benefits, and legal ambiguity let you have your cake and eat it too.
But the product’s association with delta-9 THC soon put it in the government’s crosshairs, with lawmakers moving to ban delta-8 products.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because CBD experienced the same obstacles, such as inaccurate labels, questionable ingredients, and toxic extraction methods. However, recent medical cases show that delta-8 THC may not be as safe as we think.
So is delta-8 THC safe? Why could it be dangerous, and what – if anything – can be done to make delta-8 THC safer?
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC (a.k.a. “D8”) is a minor cannabinoid that naturally occurs in all forms of cannabis. However, D8’s small presence doesn’t impact the overall effects of CBD or delta-9 THC.
Synthesized in 1965 by prominent cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam, delta-8 THC is very similar to its more (in)famous counterpart.
Delta-8 and delta-9 are also structurally identical. The difference between the two is the location of what’s called a “chemical bond.” This is like a magnet that connects atoms through shared electrons.
In THC’s case, these are double bonds, which means they share two electrons at the atomic level.
THC has several molecular carbon chains. This is where the difference lies. Delta-8 THC’s double bond is on the 8th carbon chain, while you’ll find delta-9’s bond on the 9th chain – hence the numbers.
It’s easy to assume something as (seemingly) subtle as a double bond won’t significantly affect its behavior.
But this minor deviation makes a significant difference.
What Does Delta-8 THC Do?
Users report similar effects to delta-9 THC but with substantially muted intoxication. This difference has broad consumer appeal, acting as a middle ground between CBD and delta-9 THC. People can enjoy a high that won’t impair cognitive function.
Like delta-9, some of D8’s effects include:
- Mild euphoria
- “Body high”
- Functional mental clarity (some intoxication)
- Increased appetite
How do You Make Delta-8 THC?
You can’t isolate delta-8 THC or make those products at home. It involves a complex extraction process with special equipment in an industrial setting.
It’s possible to extract delta-8 from CBD or THC-rich sources. There are several methods, only two of which don’t involve THC. Let’s look at those now.
In 2004, Raphael Mechoulam found a way to synthesize delta-8 THC from CBD using isomerization. Isomers refer to compounds that are chemically similar but molecularly different. Isomerization takes that existing substance to create an isomer.
Although Mechoulam patented his process for CBD, isomerization is used in a variety of industries.
When applied to CBD, isomerization uses acid, solvents, and heat to isolate the CBD and synthesize delta-8 THC from it.
However, the process is much “dirtier” than CO2, alcohol, or even butane extraction. Consequently, it’s a massive area of concern and – in our eyes – the number one suspect for recent health issues (we’ll get to that soon).
Selective cultivation has been used for thousands of years, bringing us watermelons, broccoli, bananas, and more.
Cannabis also underwent selective cultivation, with growers trying to gear strains for certain cannabinoids and terpenes, along with larger yields and more resilient plants.
The method allowed breeders to grow high-CBD “marijuana” (over 0.3% THC), along with potent THC or balanced strains.
However, this will be a long process, given delta-8 THC’s trace amounts. Genetic modification in a lab would get the fastest results, but no hemp has undergone that process (yet).
For a while, delta-8 THC coasted by, dodging bans whenever they could. But new discoveries about delta-8 THC may mean its days under the radar are numbered.
As of September 1st, 2021, 18 states have either regulated, limited, or banned delta-8. Meanwhile, four states have the product under review. Consequently, the product could get restricted or banned in a total of 22 states – nearly half the U.S.
Between January 1st and July 31st, the FDA reported 660 adverse events related to delta-8 THC products. Their report – released September 14th, 2021 – provided a breakdown of these incidents.
What’s frightening is that the majority of “unintentional exposure” cases occurred in people under 18. In total, children accounted for 18% of hospitalization, with a handful ending up in the ICU.
Why is Delta-8 THC Making People Sick?
We don’t know if delta-8 is the direct reason for these recent hospitalizations. But the FDA’s recent findings indicate the recipe is to blame.
If the CBD industry taught us anything, some manufacturers don’t want to invest in better facilities or extraction methods. While such practices may help a company’s bottom line, it shows no respect for their customers, who trust those businesses with their health.
The biggest problem with delta-8 is the isomerization and extraction processes. CO2, ethanol, or butane won’t work as proper solvents. Instead, manufacturers have to use more toxic ingredients.
Companies extract the CBD using alkane chemicals like heptane, which is derived from petroleum. It’s also very toxic and highly volatile.
The conversion from CBD to delta-8 THC requires acid, including the highly toxic hydrochloric acid, which can cause severe reactions and death when inhaled at just 50 to 100 parts per million. Now imagine vaping it.
Health officials warn that manufacturers use household chemicals in unsanitary conditions.
The FDA says in their report:
The final delta-8 THC product may have potentially harmful by-products (contaminants) due to the chemicals used in the process, and there is uncertainty with respect to other potential contaminants that may be present or produced depending on the composition of the starting raw material. If consumed or inhaled, these chemicals, including some used to make (synthesize) delta-8 THC and the by-products created during synthesis, can be harmful.
So which toxic traces get left behind? What (if any) harmful by-products appear? Is the cannabinoid itself to blame?
We don’t know the exact reason. But there are a few ways unscrupulous companies increase the chances of adverse effects.
Third-party lab tests are standard practice for most hemp-derived CBD businesses today – and rightfully so. Things can go wrong, so it’s essential to know before shipping a defective product.
CBD companies that don’t offer this data are a huge red flag. The same principle applies to delta-8, regardless of the vendor’s CBD experience.
Vitamin E acetate – a cutting agent used in illegal THC vape cartridges – became the center of attention in 2019 for its association with the vaping health crisis.
The substance is believed to be a significant, or possibly exclusive, contributor to vaping-related illnesses.
There’s little reason for suppliers not to use the same method to dilute their products.
Deliberate Negligence or “Cutting Corners”
This is the worst offense, so we saved it for last. As we’ve established, lack of regulation means there are no rules or standards. Consequently, delta-8 vendors have no obligation for quality.
Most customers, however, don’t realize this. Consequently, the product they think will help their health could be leading them to an emergency room visit.
Of course, the worst offenders are the ones who don’t test their products. Without safety confirmation, a vendor could unknowingly pump poison into the market for months or years.
This is a clear example of how legality doesn’t always imply morality.
Making Delta-8 THC Safer
Just like CBD evolved in quality, delta-8 THC needs to follow suit. Leaving the industry unchecked isn’t an option, but banning the product is equally ineffective. The chances are that making delta-8 illegal will just create a new black market niche.
CBD companies may also continue selling it, regardless of the FDA or legal mandates.
What’s the solution? Making delta-8 THC safer involves a mix of quality control, regulation, and personal responsibility.
CBD vendors, dispensaries, and customers are too eager to try delta-8 THC. Unsurprisingly, a light version of delta-9 THC has broad appeal. But sometimes, people jump in too quickly.
To quote Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
In other words, people saw a subtle and (sort of) legal way to get high, so producers saw dollar signs. It’s time for all of us to put our excitement aside and give the delta-8 industry time to establish itself and – at the very least – start self-regulating for competition.
Research the Vendor
As a general rule, it’s best to know as much as possible about a product before buying it. Sites like Reddit, TrustPilot, and similar independent forums, have genuine reviews from real buyers.
Many reputable, established CBD companies started ceiling delta-8 THC. Just because a business is known for top-quality CBD doesn’t mean they didn’t rush to sell delta-8. Remember, the manufacturing process is entirely different.
Leave it to the Legal States
If CBD vendors don’t maintain safety and quality, it may be time to find someone who will. Legal recreational cannabis states are highly (often excessively) regulated.
Stricter rules mean better quality, consistency, and ultimately, safety.
One of the hemp CBD industry’s main selling points is “relief without the high.” It’s also established a much better reputation for self-regulating and improving its manufacturing techniques.
Delta-8 THC is new, misunderstood, toxic, and completely unregulated. “Toxic” and “unregulated” don’t belong in the same sentence. Given the need for strict quality control beyond hemp CBD, the legal market may be in a better position to produce, distribute, and sell delta-8 THC.
Why Don’t We Offer Delta-8 THC?
We don’t offer delta-8 THC because we don’t trust it yet. We’re confident that – like CBD – D8 production will become more refined and self-regulated.
But until that time comes, we’ll focus on our proprietary CBD nanoemulsion process to make products that we know are safe.
- Delta-8 THC is a milder version of delta-9
- It only appears in trace amounts
- Delta-8 can be synthesized from CBD through isomerization
- There is evidence of adverse health events from delta-8 THC products
- The solvents and chemicals involved are dirty and dangerous
- It’s best to avoid these products until they become regulated or self-regulated
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