Over 1 in 10 high school seniors report using delta-8 THC

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More than 11% of precocious schoolhouse seniors study utilizing delta-8 THC — a compound intimately related to nan psychoactive chemic successful marijuana that’s ineligible successful galore states thanks to a loophole successful nan 2018 workplace bill — according to a study published Tuesday successful nan Journal of nan American Medical Association. 

The study, led by researchers astatine nan Keck School of Medicine astatine nan University of Southern California, is 1 of nan first to connection a nationwide snapshot of teenage usage of delta-8, a little-researched cannabis merchandise pinch psychoactive effects that has grown successful fame successful caller years. 

The researchers looked astatine information from nan Monitoring nan Future survey, a nationwide study tally by nan University of Michigan and funded by National Institute connected Drug Abuse, which asks adolescents astir constituent usage and attitudes toward drugs. Specifically, nan researchers focused connected responses from February done June 2023 astir delta-8 and marijuana usage from astir 2,000 precocious schoolhouse seniors. 

Nearly 31% of nan precocious schoolhouse seniors reported having used marijuana successful nan past year, and much than 1 successful 10 reported having utilized delta-8 THC. 

“We cognize precocious schoolhouse students people want to research and effort caller ‘exciting’ things, like e-cigarettes, intoxicant aliases marijuana,” said elder study writer Adam Leventhal, head of nan University of Southern California Institute for Addiction Science. “It’s not astonishing that we’re seeing that they’re utilizing delta-8. We conscionable didn’t expect it to beryllium truthful high.”

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol is only somewhat chemically different from delta-9 THC, which is nan type of THC that is typically recovered successful marijuana and what group astir apt deliberation of arsenic responsible for nan drug’s high. 

Delta-8 is sometimes referred to arsenic “diet weed” aliases “weed-lite,” because it’s believed to person weaker psychoactive effects than delta-9. The problem, Leventhal said, is that location isn’t capable investigation to opportunity that definitively. 

“There person been immoderate trends for consumers to opportunity online that nan effects mightiness beryllium little robust than marijuana, but I deliberation it’s difficult to put immoderate credence successful that astatine this point,” he said.

Delta-8 THC has garnered attraction successful caller years acknowledgment to a loophole successful nan 2018 workplace bill, which legalized hemp, defined arsenic a cannabis works that contains little than 0.3% delta-9 THC. (Hemp and marijuana are some cannabis plants; nan quality betwixt nan 2 is really overmuch delta-9 they contain.) The workplace bill, however, made nary mention of delta-8 — an omission that made it imaginable for vendors to waste delta-8 arsenic agelong arsenic it came from hemp plants, not marijuana plants. 

“I don’t deliberation anyone thought this was going to hap erstwhile nan workplace measure passed,” said Ziva Cooper, head of nan Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids astatine UCLA. “The ghost is benignant of retired of nan vessel astatine this point.”

The caller study recovered that delta-8 usage by precocious schoolhouse seniors was higher successful nan South and nan Midwest and successful states wherever recreational marijuana isn’t legal. Delta-8 was besides much apt to beryllium utilized successful states wherever location are nary regulations connected its use. It is banned aliases severely restricted successful 24 states and Washington, D.C., according to CBD Oracle, a cannabis user investigation company.

In places without legal marijuana markets, companies whitethorn look to marketplace delta-8 products arsenic substitutes, Leventhal said. The aforesaid goes for nan consumer, he said, who whitethorn move to delta-8 wherever it’s easier to bargain than marijuana.

Still, galore questions stay astir delta-8 THC and imaginable effects it whitethorn have. Compounding matters is nan deficiency of uniformity of nan products connected nan market: Doses tin alteration wide successful concentration, and there’s nary guarantee a merchandise contains what’s really connected nan label, experts say. 

While investigation connected delta-8 THC is limited, fixed its chemic similarity to delta-9, there’s logic to judge it whitethorn transportation immoderate of nan aforesaid risks connected nan processing teen brain, said Dr. Scott Hadland, an addiction master astatine Mass General for Children successful Boston. 

“We cognize delta-9 THC appears to person an effect connected nan building and usability of nan brain erstwhile young group usage it heavily,” Hadland said. “It’s linked to things for illustration early onset psychosis, consequence for schizophrenia and anxiety and slump successful young people.” 

Delta-8 isn’t nan only cannabinoid that has entered nan marketplace that has experts concerned, Cooper said. 

“We don’t cognize very overmuch astir them, but group are utilizing them, and they’re proliferating,” she said, referring to different synthetic cannabinoids.

Closing nan loophole connected delta-8 will yet require legislative action, Hadland said.

“We want to make judge that these products aren’t disposable to adolescents,” he said.  “The existent business is specified that, successful galore states, adolescents tin entree these products pinch nary property restrictions, and that’s really concerning.”

Akshay Syal, M.D.

Akshay Syal, M.D., is a aesculapian chap pinch nan NBC News Health and Medical Unit.