Delta 8 THC might be new and exciting, but researchers actually don’t know that much about it, thanks to its status as an unregulated substance. Which can leave consumers with many questions such as:
- What is delta 8?
- What is the difference between delta 8 and delta 9?
- Is delta 8 natural?
- Does it show up on a drug test?
- What is a psychoactive substance?
- Is delta 8 psychoactive?
- Or is delta 8 non-psychoactive?
What Is Delta 8?
Delta 8, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, and delta 8 THC are three different names for the newly popular strain of THC. Like CBD, CBG, and delta 9 THC, delta 8 is just one of the over 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. From a legal standpoint, the cannabis plant has two varieties: marijuana and hemp. While hemp is federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, marijuana remains federally illegal with many states providing their own laws on the substance.
With that in mind, unless a state has a specific law surrounding the sale and use of delta 8 THC products, then they mostly fall under the umbrella of hemp products (and into a sort of gray legal area). That being said, you should use caution if you decide to try a delta 8 product because they are not evaluated by the FDA or tested for quality assurance. Which means there's a good chance they may not contain exactly what the product label says they do.
In other words, they could contain more or less delta 8 than the amount listed on the package, and possibly even some quantity of delta 9 THC. Because there has not been enough research into delta 8, some labs do not have the necessary tools to identify the difference between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC. Nor are they required to test delta 8 THC products in the first place, since there is no regulation surrounding it.
What’s the Difference Between Delta 8 and Delta 9?
Delta 8 THC has a similar chemical structure to delta 9 THC, with the difference being the location of their double bond on either the 8th or 9th carbon chain. So while both strains of THC will create psychoactive effects, delta 8 THC will likely be less potent. However, it’s important to note that researchers have not conducted nearly as many studies on delta 8 as they have on delta 9, which means that delta 8 THC product claims will often be much less reliable.
Believe it or not, delta 8 THC was discovered in 1965, just one year after the discovery of delta 9. Even so, delta 9 THC has received most of the spotlight, and was directly mentioned in the 2018 Farm Bill – unlike delta 8 THC, which currently resides in a sort of gray legal area with most states developing their own rules around the purchase and use of delta 8 products. This is also why delta 8 sales are often higher in states that have not yet legalized marijuana.
Delta 8 THC interacts with both your endocannabinoid system (ECS) through both CB1 and CB2 receptors. But similar to delta 9 THC, it has a stronger connection with your CB1 receptors, which are predominantly found in your central nervous system (CNS). Which is why THC is most commonly associated with effects on your thought process, motor skills, appetite, and cognition.
While delta 9 is almost exclusively produced from marijuana (but can be derived from low-THC hemp as well), delta 8 THC is commonly derived from hemp rather than cannabis. And because it can be taken from the same federally legal hemp that CBD is produced from, that lands delta 8 squarely in a sort of gray legal zone.
But despite its similar origins to CBD and its similarities to delta 9 THC, is delta 8 natural?
Is Delta 8 Natural?
Delta 8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid from the Cannabis sativa plant, but it is only found in trace amounts. This more often than not leads manufacturers to produce a completely synthetic version of delta 8 THC for their products – one which is not natural. So while the answer to the question “is delta 8 natural” is yes, a better question would be “is the delta 8 I’m using natural,” because it’s probably not.
Between December 2020 and February 2022, the FDA received 104 reports detailing adverse reactions to delta 8 THC products, such as vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness. Of those 104 cases, 55 percent required emergency medical intervention or hospital admission. And while 104 cases might not sound like much, you should know that the FDA only accounts for reported cases.
If delta 8 THC is legal in your state, knowing which products to trust (if any) can be really confusing. Especially considering that unlike delta 9 THC, delta 8 is unregulated – which is what allows manufacturers to produce potentially harmful synthetic delta 8 products. And because it’s synthetic, delta 8 products could easily contain a higher level of THC than what naturally occurs in the hemp plant. Plus, you never know what’s going to show up on a drug test.
Delta 9 THC, by contrast, occurs more abundantly in the hemp plant, so delta 9 THC products are more likely to be naturally sourced. They can also still be legal so long as the THC is less than 0.3 percent of the product’s weight.
Does It Show Up on a Drug Test?
Again, because there is limited research into delta 8 THC, many urinalysis tests do not distinguish a difference between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC. So while delta 8 may technically be legal to use in your state, you could fail a drug test by receiving a false positive for delta 9 THC. There is also a slight chance it could get in the way of tests for delta 9 THC, resulting in a false negative.
Even though it is often derived from hemp, the same source as CBD, it’s important to remember that delta 8 products have a much higher THC volume than CBD products (which are often THC-free*). So while using CBD won’t lead to a failed drug test, delta 8 THC easily can.
Note: Although THC (in any form) may be legal in your state, organizations and employers are free to implement their own drug policies in any state. cbdMD’s full spectrum CBD products, while made with less than the federally legal amount of THC, could potentially show up on a drug test when used consistently over time. So be sure to check your work policies before consuming any form THC.
What Is a Psychoactive Substance?
A psychoactive substance is one that affects how your brain works, influencing and changing things like your behavior, mood, feelings, thoughts, and general awareness. But not all illegal substances are psychoactive, and not all legal substances are non-psychoactive. What this means is that yes, there are a number of legal products and substances that are considered psychoactive, including caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and certain prescription medications.
The label “psychoactive” isn’t inherently bad because not all effects on you and your brain are necessarily bad. Some are even desirable, which is one reason physicians prescribe psychoactive drugs. The key difference comes down to which psychoactive substances are legal and which are not – even if it feels like some legal psychoactives can be more harmful than certain illegal ones.
So, is delta 8 psychoactive?
The Big Question: Is Delta 8 Psychoactive or Is Delta 8 Non-Psychoactive?
Delta 8 is most definitely a psychoactive substance. And like large amounts of THC (more than the federally legal limit of 0.3 percent), it will get you high. But that’s not the only concern. Thanks to delta 8 THC’s unregulated status, there’s no way to be sure just how much THC is contained in a specific product, and what other harmful by-products might have contaminated it during the synthetic development process.
Because synthetic delta 8 likely contains more THC than is naturally found in the hemp plant, and it isn’t currently held to any manufacturing regulations or standards, it is difficult to establish an accurate level of safety for consumption. And in order to produce synthetic delta 8 THC, manufacturers add various chemicals to convert some of the other cannabinoids into additional delta 8.
Due to a lack of restrictions and regulations, many of these chemicals may not need to be disclosed to consumers. And unfortunately, some of these chemical substances are potentially harmful and may create contaminants as a by-product when they’re mixed together. All of this is to say that you should take manufacturer's claims about delta 8 THC with a grain of salt, and use extreme caution when deciding whether or not to use a delta 8 product.
For more information on delta 8 THC and answers to gradually evolving questions such as “is delta 8 natural,” and “is delta 8 psychoactive or non-psychoactive,” keep an eye on our frequently updated blog. Looking to stay up to date on the latest supplement news and cbdMD’s upcoming special offers? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or chat with someone live today!