Just like new technology, innovations in the world of cannabis continue to progress faster than the average person can keep up. You’ve heard of THC, CBD, and even delta-8 THC, but have you heard of THC-O? THC-O, pronounced “THC-oh”, is a synthetic cannabis compound that is rumored to be nearly three times more potent than regular THC.
What is THC-O Acetate?
THC-O acetate, or THC-O for short, is a cannabinoid that is derived from hemp. It is a synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol that can only be manufactured in a lab. While it is stronger than regular THC, it is quickly becoming known for its anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, stress-reducing, and appetite-stimulating properties. THC-O is made using a complex and highly dangerous process that involves:
- Extracting CBD from raw hemp
- Extracting delta 8-THC from the CBD
- Adding acetic anhydride, an extremely volatile chemical, to delta 8-THC to make THC-O acetate
Although THC-O may sound brand new to most regular people, the U.S. military began studying the effects of the cannabinoid as early as 1949. The studies revealed that the compound impaired dogs’ muscle coordination nearly twice as much as conventional delta-9 THC.
Today, consumers can find THC-O at CBD stores and some smoke shops in the form of tinctures, distillates, vape liquid, and gummies.
What is the Difference Between THC-O and Delta 9-THC?
Delta 9-THC is the type of THC you think of when you think of marijuana. It is the traditional cannabinoid that is the active ingredient in the marijuana plant. Delta 9-THC is responsible for producing the psychoactive and euphoric effects of smoking marijuana or eating edibles.
Both THC-O and delta 9-THC produce euphoric effects that make users feel “high.” However, there are three primary differences between these two compounds:
- Delta 9-THC is illegal on a federal level. Some states have legalized it for recreational use and many have legalized it for medicinal use. THC-O has a very different legal status. THC-O is legal on a federal level as well as in 38 states. It is legal because, unlike delta 9-THC, THC-O is derived from hemp, and hemp-derived products were legalized for manufacturing, distribution, and sale in the United States under the 2018 Farm Bill.
- THC-O is thought to be nearly three times more potent than delta 9-THC.
- Delta 9-THC is thought to be naturally occurring. THC-O, on the other hand, can only be manufactured in a lab.
Due to THC-O’s federally legal status, many cannabis companies have begun selling these products in nearly 38 states.
THC-O is Raising Concern Among Public Health Officials
Just because something is legal doesn’t make it safe. In the case of THC-O, its legal status may likely change as researchers continue to recognize the dangers of this substance. Still, the new and upcoming cannabinoid is gaining popularity among consumers who live in states where recreational marijuana remains illegal.
One major public safety concern surrounding THC-O is in regard to how the compound is made. The hemp extraction process can be complicated, but the real danger comes when the highly-flammable acetic anhydride is added to the delta 8-THC molecules. A small misstep could lead to a fire, serious burns, or even a life-threatening explosion. Working with volatile chemicals leaves both clandestine laboratories and commercial cannabinoid companies at risk.
Another safety concern comes with the potency of the substance. Reports vary, but some claim that THC-O is more than three times more potent than regular THC. Some consumers even report experiencing strong psychedelic effects. Even a very small amount can cause hallucinatory effects. Some users even compare the effects to those of low doses of mescaline, an extremely powerful hallucinogenic drug.
Users who aren’t regular marijuana smokers may have a low or non-existent tolerance. So, when they consume THC-O, they could be at a substantially higher risk for anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, and other adverse side effects. The extreme potency could even make the drug more addictive than regular marijuana.
Despite the possible medicinal benefits THC-O could have, there is a serious lack of testing and regulation, as well as plenty of safety concerns, making this substance potentially dangerous to experiment with.
Keep Yourself and Your Loved Ones Safe
Experimenting with THC-O can be risky. It’s safer to stick to less potent cannabis compounds, such as delta 8-THC or CBD. Better yet, avoiding using any kind of substance that isn’t prescribed to you is ideal. If you’re considering using THC-O to alleviate a medical condition, be sure to speak with your doctor first, and consider choosing a more conservative, thoroughly studied treatment approach. Remember, THC-O is still new, and we don’t yet know all of the related risks.