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Delta-8 vs Delta-9 THC: The Benefits, The Risks, and Differences

cannabis

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Delta-8 Vs Delta-9 THC

The cannabis plant has been the subject of extensive research and debate, particularly concerning its psychoactive compounds, Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC. A wide range of cannabis products, including tinctures, edibles, and vape cartridges, are available in the market and are growing in popularity. These cannabinoids, naturally occurring in the cannabis sativa plant, have both potential therapeutic benefits and notable safety concerns. As the cannabis industry evolves under the Agriculture Improvement Act, understanding the differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC becomes crucial for medical cannabis users, public health officials, and the broader community. This blog delves into their chemical structures, manufacturing processes, potential health benefits, and risks, shedding light on how these substances impact health behavior and community health.

**What is THC? \ **THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis. It is responsible for the “high” experienced by users. THC interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, affecting memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception. It is used both recreationally and medicinally for its effects on mood, appetite, and pain relief.

What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC Overview

  1. Chemical Structure: Delta-8 THC has a slightly different chemical structure than Delta-9 THC, with the double bond on the eighth carbon atom instead of the ninth.
  2. Psychoactive Effects: It is psychoactive, but generally considered to be less potent than Delta-9 THC, producing milder euphoria and relaxation.
  3. Legal Status: Delta-8 THC exists in a legal gray area in many places. It’s derived from hemp, making it technically legal under the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S., but some states have specifically banned it. In some areas, medical authorization is required for the use of Delta-9 THC but not for Delta-8 THC.
  4. Extraction and Production: It is typically extracted from hemp-derived CBD through a chemical process, as it occurs in very low concentrations in cannabis plants.
  5. Medical and Therapeutic Uses: Delta-8 THC is reported to have potential benefits such as reducing nausea, stimulating appetite, relieving pain, and reducing anxiety.
  6. Popularity: It has gained popularity due to its milder effects and legal status in some regions, offering an alternative to Delta-9 THC for those seeking a less intense experience.

While Delta-8 THC offers some potential benefits, it’s important to be aware of the legal status in your area and to understand that research on its safety and efficacy is still limited.

 

Benefits of Delta-8

**Delta-8 THC has gained attention for its potential benefits, which include:

  1. Milder Psychoactive Effects: Produces a less intense high compared to Delta-9 THC, which can be appealing to those who want to avoid strong psychoactive effects. Methods of consuming Delta-8 THC include oral administration through tinctures, edibles, and capsules, and intravenous administration through smoking and vaping.
  2. Anxiety Reduction: Known for its calming effects, it may help reduce anxiety and stress without causing paranoia, which can be a side effect of Delta-9 THC.
  3. Pain Relief: Potential analgesic properties that can help manage chronic pain and inflammation.
  4. Appetite Stimulation: Can stimulate appetite, beneficial for individuals dealing with appetite loss due to medical conditions or treatments like chemotherapy.
  5. Nausea and Vomiting Reduction: Reported to help reduce nausea and vomiting, similar to Delta-9 THC, making it useful for those undergoing treatments that cause these symptoms.
  6. Neuroprotective Properties: Some research suggests it may have neuroprotective effects, which could benefit brain health.
  7. Legal Status: In many regions, Delta-8 THC derived from hemp is legal, offering a legal alternative to Delta-9 THC.

While these benefits are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the effects and potential therapeutic uses of Delta-8 THC. Users should also consider the legal status and consult healthcare professionals before use.

 

Risk Factors and Safety Concerns

  1. Limited Research: The long-term effects and safety profile of Delta-8 THC are not well studied, leading to potential unknown risks.
  2. Psychoactive Effects: Although milder than Delta-9 THC, it can still cause impairments in judgment, coordination, and reaction time.
  3. Quality and Purity: Products may vary in quality and purity, with potential for contamination or inaccurate labeling of THC concentrations.
  4. Legal Ambiguity: The legal status of Delta-8 THC is unclear and varies by location, potentially leading to legal complications.
  5. Health Conditions: Individuals with certain health conditions, such as heart issues or mental health disorders, may be at greater risk of adverse effects.
  6. Interaction with Medications: Delta-8 THC may interact with other medications, potentially altering their effectiveness or causing harmful side effects.
  7. Addiction and Dependence: Regular use of Delta-8 THC may lead to psychological dependence and potential substance use disorders.
  8. Age and Development: Use by adolescents and young adults can affect brain development and cognitive function.
  9. Inconsistent Dosage: Due to varying product quality, users may unintentionally consume higher doses, increasing the risk of adverse effects.
  10. Impaired Driving: As with any psychoactive substance, using Delta-8 THC can impair the ability to drive or operate machinery safely.
  11. Potentially Harmful Chemicals: Delta-8 THC products may contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and residual chemicals, which can pose significant health risks. It is crucial to choose products that have been thoroughly tested for safety and quality.

 

What is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC, or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Here’s an overview:

Delta-9 THC Overview

  1. Chemical Structure: Delta-9 THC is a cannabinoid, a type of compound that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Its chemical structure allows it to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system.
  2. Psychoactive Effects: Known for producing the “high” associated with marijuana use, Delta-9 THC affects perception, mood, and behavior. It can induce euphoria, relaxation, altered senses, and increased appetite.
  3. Medical Uses: Delta-9 THC is used medicinally to help with various conditions, including chronic pain, nausea and vomiting (especially related to chemotherapy), muscle spasticity (such as in multiple sclerosis), and sleep disorders. The expanding world of other cannabinoids, such as delta-8 THC, also shows potential benefits and therapeutic uses.
  4. Side Effects: Common side effects include dry mouth, red eyes, impaired memory, coordination issues, anxiety, and paranoia. Higher doses can lead to more severe side effects, such as hallucinations or psychosis in susceptible individuals.
  5. Legal Status: The legality of Delta-9 THC varies by jurisdiction. In many places, it is regulated and can only be legally obtained through medical or recreational marijuana programs.
  6. Recreational Use: Delta-9 THC is widely used recreationally for its psychoactive effects. It is available in various forms, including smoked or vaporized flower, edibles, oils, and tinctures.
  7. Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System: Delta-9 THC binds primarily to CB1 receptors in the brain, affecting neurotransmitter release and influencing various physiological and cognitive processes.
  8. Potential for Addiction: Regular use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, known as cannabis use disorder.

 

Benefits of Delta-9?

  1. Pain Relief: Delta-9 THC is effective in alleviating chronic pain, including pain from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.
  2. Nausea and Vomiting Reduction: It is particularly beneficial for reducing nausea and vomiting, especially in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  3. Appetite Stimulation: Delta-9 THC can help stimulate appetite in individuals with conditions like HIV/AIDS or cancer, preventing weight loss and promoting nutrition.
  4. Muscle Spasticity Control: It can reduce muscle spasms and spasticity, particularly in conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
  5. Sleep Aid: Delta-9 THC can assist in improving sleep quality and duration, helping those with insomnia or other sleep disorders.
  6. Anxiety and PTSD Relief: Some individuals find that Delta-9 THC helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although it can also exacerbate anxiety in some users.
  7. Neuroprotective Effects: There is some evidence to suggest that Delta-9 THC may have neuroprotective properties, potentially helping in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Mood Enhancement: It can improve mood and overall sense of well-being, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with depression or other mood disorders.
  9. Glaucoma Treatment: Delta-9 THC can reduce intraocular pressure, which is beneficial in managing glaucoma.
  10. Anti-inflammatory Properties: It has anti-inflammatory effects, which can help with inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

 

Risk Factors

  1. Psychoactive Effects: Can cause impairments in judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
  2. Anxiety and Paranoia: May exacerbate anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks, especially in high doses or in individuals predisposed to these conditions.
  3. Cognitive Impairment: Long-term use can affect memory, learning, and cognitive function, particularly in adolescents and young adults.
  4. Dependence and Addiction: Regular use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, known as cannabis use disorder.
  5. Mental Health Issues: Potential to trigger or worsen mental health conditions, such as depression, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders.
  6. Respiratory Problems: Smoking Delta-9 THC can lead to respiratory issues, including chronic bronchitis and lung irritation.
  7. Heart Health: Can increase heart rate and may pose risks for individuals with cardiovascular conditions.
  8. Interaction with Medications: May interact with other medications, altering their effectiveness or causing adverse side effects.
  9. Impaired Driving: Use can impair driving ability, increasing the risk of motor vehicle accidents.
  10. Legal Consequences: In places where Delta-9 THC is illegal, possession and use can lead to legal troubles, including fines and imprisonment.

 

Delta-8 Vs Delta-9 THC

Differences and Similarities Between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC

Chemical Structure

  • Similarity: Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are cannabinoids with a similar chemical structure, featuring a double bond.
  • Difference: The double bond is located on the eighth carbon atom for Delta-8 THC and the ninth carbon atom for Delta-9 THC. This slight difference affects their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Psychoactive Effects

  • Similarity: Both compounds are psychoactive and can produce a “high.”
  • Difference: Delta-9 THC is generally more potent and produces stronger psychoactive effects compared to the milder effects of Delta-8 THC.

Legality

  • Similarity: Both compounds’ legality varies by jurisdiction.
  • Difference: Delta-9 THC is often more strictly regulated and illegal in many areas without medical or recreational marijuana laws. Delta-8 THC, derived from hemp, occupies a legal gray area and is legal in more places under the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S., though some states have banned it specifically.

Medical Benefits for Chronic Pain

  • Similarity: Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC offer potential medical benefits, such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, and nausea reduction.
  • Difference: Delta-8 THC is often preferred for its milder effects, which might be better suited for those who experience anxiety or paranoia with Delta-9 THC.

Side Effects

  • Similarity: Both can cause side effects like dry mouth, red eyes, impaired coordination, and increased heart rate.
  • Difference: Delta-9 THC is more likely to cause intense side effects such as paranoia, anxiety, and significant impairment, whereas Delta-8 THC typically results in milder side effects.

Availability

  • Similarity: Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can be found in various forms, including edibles, oils, tinctures, and vape products.
  • Difference: Delta-9 THC is more commonly found in traditional marijuana products, while Delta-8 THC is often marketed as a legal alternative and is typically derived from hemp-derived CBD.

Interaction with Receptors

  • Similarity: Both interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, primarily binding to CB1 receptors in the brain.
  • Difference: The binding affinity is slightly different, leading to the variations in potency and psychoactive effects between the two cannabinoids.

Addictiveness of Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC

Delta-8 THC

  • Potential for Dependence: Delta-8 THC, while less potent, can still lead to psychological dependence. Regular use can create a habit, and users may develop a tolerance, needing higher doses to achieve the same effects.
  • Addiction Risk: The risk of addiction to Delta-8 THC is considered lower than Delta-9 THC due to its milder psychoactive effects, but it is not negligible. Users can still develop a substance use disorder if they consume it frequently and in large amounts.

Delta-9 THC

  • Higher Dependence Risk: Delta-9 THC has a higher potential for dependence due to its stronger psychoactive effects. Users often develop tolerance, requiring more of the substance to feel the same effects.
  • Addiction Risk: Delta-9 THC is more likely to lead to addiction, known as cannabis use disorder. Symptoms include cravings, continued use despite negative consequences, and withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance.

Similarities

  • Psychological Dependence: Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can cause psychological dependence, where users feel a need to use the substance regularly to achieve desired effects or cope with certain feelings or situations.
  • Tolerance Development: Regular use of either cannabinoid can lead to tolerance, meaning higher doses are needed over time to achieve the same effects.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Users of both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and reduced appetite when they stop using the substance.

Differences

  • Potency and Risk Level: Delta-9 THC generally carries a higher risk of addiction and more severe withdrawal symptoms due to its greater potency and stronger psychoactive effects compared to Delta-8 THC.

While both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC have the potential to be addictive, Delta-9 THC poses a higher risk. Users should be mindful of their consumption patterns and seek help if they notice signs of dependence or addiction.

 

How are Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC typically manufactured?

Delta-9 THC is extracted directly from cannabis plants, whereas Delta-8 THC is often synthesized from CBD derived from hemp plants through a chemical process.

 

What is the legal status of Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is classified as a controlled substance under federal law, but its legality varies by state, especially with medical and recreational use. Delta-8 THC exists in a legal gray area under the Agriculture Improvement Act but is banned in some states.

 

Can Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC show up on a drug test?

Yes, both can be detected in drug tests. Most drug tests screen for THC metabolites, which are produced after consuming either Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC.

 

What are the main differences in their chemical structures?

Both have similar structures but differ in the placement of a double bond. Delta-8 THC has this bond on the eighth carbon atom, while Delta-9 THC has it on the ninth carbon atom, affecting their interaction with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.

 

Where can Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC products be purchased?

Delta-9 THC products are typically found in licensed dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal. Delta-8 THC products are more widely available, often sold online, in gas stations, and convenience stores, though their legality varies by location.

 

Common Products Containing Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC in the Cannabis Industry

  1. Edibles
    • Description: Gummies, chocolates, cookies, and other food items infused with THC.
    • Usage: Consumed orally for a longer-lasting and gradual effect.
  2. Vape Cartridges
    • Description: Pre-filled cartridges containing THC oil for use with vaporizers.
    • Usage: Inhaled for rapid onset of effects.
  3. Tinctures
    • Description: Liquid extracts of THC, often mixed with a carrier oil.
    • Usage: Administered sublingually (under the tongue) for quick absorption.
  4. Capsules
    • Description: THC-infused capsules or softgels.
    • Usage: Swallowed like a pill for a consistent and measured dose.
  5. Topicals
    • Description: Creams, balms, and lotions infused with THC.
    • Usage: Applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain or inflammation.
  6. Flower
    • Description: Dried cannabis buds containing Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC.
    • Usage: Smoked or vaporized for immediate effects.
  7. Concentrates
    • Description: Highly concentrated forms of THC, such as wax, shatter, and resin.
    • Usage: Typically vaporized or dabbed for a potent and quick effect.
  8. Beverages
    • Description: Drinks infused with THC, including sodas, teas, and cannabis-infused water.
    • Usage: Consumed like regular beverages, providing a delayed onset of effects.
  9. Transdermal Patches
    • Description: Patches that deliver THC through the skin into the bloodstream.
    • Usage: Applied to the skin for slow and sustained release of THC over time.
  10. Suppositories
    • Description: THC-infused rectal or vaginal suppositories.
    • Usage: Inserted for targeted and potentially faster relief, bypassing the digestive system.

 

Can You Overdose on Delta-8 or Delta-9?


Delta-8 THC

  • Unlikely to be Fatal: Overdosing is unlikely to be lethal.
  • Overconsumption Symptoms: Can cause extreme drowsiness, confusion, anxiety, rapid heart rate, dizziness, and severe nausea or vomiting.

Delta-9 THC

  • Unlikely to be Fatal: Overdosing is unlikely to be lethal.
  • Overconsumption Symptoms: Can lead to intense anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, severe nausea and vomiting, rapid heart rate, panic attacks, and confusion.

While neither Delta-8 nor Delta-9 THC is likely to cause a fatal overdose, overconsumption can result in severe and distressing side effects. Seek medical attention if severe symptoms occur.



How Long Do Delta-8 and Delta-9 Stay in Your System?

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can stay in your system for different durations depending on several factors:

  1. Detection in Blood: Typically detectable for up to 2-3 days after use.
  2. Detection in Urine: Can be detected for up to 30 days, depending on usage frequency.
  3. Detection in Saliva: Usually detectable for 1-3 days.
  4. Detection in Hair: Can be detected for up to 90 days.

Factors such as metabolism, frequency of use, dosage, and body fat percentage can influence the detection time.

 

Treatment Options for THC Dependence and Overuse

  1. Detoxification
    • Purpose: Manage withdrawal symptoms and clear THC from the body.
    • Approach: Can be done at home or under medical supervision in severe cases.
  2. Behavioral Therapies
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps individuals recognize and change problematic behaviors and thought patterns.
    • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): Increases motivation to quit using THC and engage in treatment.
  3. Counseling
    • Individual Counseling: Provides personalized support and strategies to manage cravings and triggers.
    • Group Counseling: Offers peer support and shared experiences to foster recovery.
  4. Support Groups
    • Marijuana Anonymous (MA): Follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • Peer Support Groups: Non-12-step groups that provide support and accountability.
  5. Medication
    • Symptom Management: Medications may be prescribed to manage anxiety, depression, or insomnia associated with THC withdrawal.
    • Experimental Treatments: Research is ongoing into medications specifically targeting cannabinoid receptors to aid in recovery.
  6. Lifestyle Changes
    • Healthy Habits: Encouraging exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep to improve overall well-being.
    • Stress Management: Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to reduce stress and prevent relapse.
  7. Educational Programs
    • Awareness and Prevention: Programs aimed at educating individuals about the risks of THC use and strategies for maintaining sobriety.
    • Relapse Prevention: Skills training to identify and cope with high-risk situations.
  8. Aftercare Programs
    • Continued Support: Ongoing counseling and support group attendance to maintain sobriety.
    • Sober Living Environments: Structured living situations that provide support and reduce exposure to triggers.

These treatment options can be tailored to individual needs and preferences, increasing the chances of successful recovery from THC dependence and overuse.

 

Insurance Options for THC Dependence and Overuse Treatment

  1. Private Health Insurance
    • Coverage: Most private insurance plans cover substance abuse treatment, including therapy, counseling, and inpatient or outpatient rehab.
    • Verification: Check with your insurance provider for specific coverage details and any pre-authorization requirements.
  2. Medicaid
    • Coverage: Provides coverage for low-income individuals and families. Includes substance abuse treatment services such as detox, counseling, and rehab programs.
    • Eligibility: Varies by state, so check your state’s Medicaid program for specific details.
  3. Medicare
    • Coverage: For individuals 65 and older or those with certain disabilities. Part B may cover outpatient mental health services, while Part A may cover inpatient rehab if deemed medically necessary.
    • Limitations: Coverage details can vary, so consult Medicare guidelines or a Medicare representative.
  4. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
    • Services: Many employers offer EAPs that provide confidential counseling and referral services for employees dealing with substance abuse issues.
    • Access: Contact your HR department to inquire about available EAP services and how to access them.
  5. Affordable Care Act (ACA) Plans
    • Coverage: ACA-compliant plans are required to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment as essential health benefits.
    • Marketplace Plans: Check the Health Insurance Marketplace for plans that cover substance abuse treatment.
  6. Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits
    • Coverage: Veterans may receive substance abuse treatment through the VA healthcare system, including counseling, detox programs, and rehab services.
    • Eligibility: Contact the VA for information on eligibility and available services.
  7. Tricare
    • Coverage: For military personnel and their families, covering a range of substance abuse treatment services, including detox, therapy, and inpatient or outpatient rehab.
    • Verification: Check with Tricare for specific coverage details and requirements.
  8. Sliding Scale Payment Options
    • Providers: Some treatment centers offer sliding scale fees based on income, making treatment more affordable for those without insurance.
    • Inquire: Contact treatment centers directly to inquire about sliding scale payment options.

Steps to Take

  1. Verify Coverage: Contact your insurance provider to confirm what substance abuse treatments are covered under your plan.
  2. Pre-Authorization: Determine if pre-authorization or a referral is required for treatment services.
  3. In-Network Providers: Ensure the treatment center or healthcare provider is in-network to maximize coverage benefits and reduce out-of-pocket costs.
  4. Out-of-Pocket Costs: Understand any co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums associated with your plan.

These insurance options can help make treatment for THC dependence and overuse more accessible and affordable.

 

Conclusion

In the evolving landscape of cannabis research and regulation, Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC stand out for their unique properties and effects. While both cannabinoids offer potential therapeutic benefits, such as alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and aiding sleep onset, they also present safety concerns and risks, particularly regarding their psychoactive and intoxicating effects. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, fueled by the Agriculture Improvement Act, it is essential for public health officials, medical professionals, and consumers to stay informed about the latest empirical evidence and safety data. Understanding the nuances between these cannabinoids can help ensure their safe and effective use in medical and recreational contexts, promoting overall public health and well-being.

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FAQs

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive component, while Delta-8 THC is a similar but less potent compound.
Delta-9 THC is more potent and typically produces stronger psychoactive and intoxicating effects. Delta-8 THC offers a milder high, which some users find more manageable.
Yes, both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, though Delta-9 THC is found in higher concentrations. Delta-8 THC is present in much smaller amounts and is often synthesized from CBD.
Both cannabinoids have potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea, stimulating appetite, aiding sleep, and possibly helping with seizure disorders and autoimmune diseases.
Both can cause side effects such as dry mouth, red eyes, impaired coordination, and anxiety. Delta-9 THC is more likely to cause intense psychoactive effects, while Delta-8 THC may pose risks due to the chemical synthesis process used to produce it.

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