Delta-9-THC, the key drug in cannabis plants that keeps people high, may also be a potent medication. It may treat severe nausea and stimulate appetite, which is particularly beneficial for people who have HIV or are undergoing chemotherapy. Since the 1980s, a synthetic form of THC, called Dronabinol, has been used to treat these conditions, although some people prefer their THC to come from the plant itself.
But though marijuana is a relatively mild substance with few side effects—at least compared to alcohol or tobacco—too much of Delta-9-THC has its downsides. It can also cause paranoia and anxiety, or it can cause dizziness and headaches. And it’s worth remembering that most of the cannabis sold legally in the U.S. contains a high concentration of THC.
That’s why many cannabis users are moving to an obscure Delta-9-THC analog named Delta-8-THC. The difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 is subtle: both will stone you, but the former is about half as strong as the latter. Many people contend that Delta-8 is a smoother, less anxious psychoactive experience than the more familiar Delta-9. It also tends to have additional therapeutic effects than normal THC, such as increased pain relief, although these reports have yet to be considered in clinical trials.
Based on these anecdotal accounts, Delta-8 is increasingly becoming a trendy new cannabis product, appearing in products such as steam cartridges, soft drinks, gums and tinctures. The increase in popularity is mirrored in the CBD (cannabidiol) craze before it and as with CBD, there is still not much quality control for goods or data to back up anecdotal accounts. Many of the same optimistic assumptions are made regarding Delta-8 products—although scientists have yet to research their effects in detail.
A Subtle Shift
The cannabis plant is simply a warehouse for hundreds of different compounds called cannabinoids. The two most common ones are also the most abundant ones: Delta-9-THC and CBD. But the plant also produces many other so-called minor cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, THCV and of course, Delta-8-THC. Most cannabis plants produce very low amounts of Delta-8, so a lot of processing and refining is needed to obtain a usable amount. However, Delta-8 is more stable than Delta-9, which may make it a safer choice for prescription drugs.
The key difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 is the position of a particular bond between two of the atoms that make up each THC molecule. Delta-8 has a dual bond on the 8th carbon in the chain, while Delta-9 has a dual bond on the 9th carbon in the chain.
Until all cannabinoids are extensively researched, we now know that Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC are the only compounds in the marijuana plant that cause all the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Since Delta-9-THC is much more prevalent than Delta-8-THC, cannabis psychoactivity was primarily attributed to Delta-9 THC.
But now the Delta-8 is being discovered as an alternative to the Delta-9 because it produces a less extreme, gentle, pleasant and manageable high. As far as the endocannabinoid system is concerned, Delta-9 THC only activates the CB1 receptor while Delta-8 THC activates both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When all receptors are active, there is an associated physical condition known as homeostasis, the body’s normal resting state, when it is not in battle or combat mode. This is the same impact that CBD has on the body.
As far as the advantages of Delta-8 are concerned, they are considerably different from those of Delta-9. In research dating back to 1974, when cannabinoids were researched by Professor Raphael Mechoulam, he found that Delta-8 was an extremely strong immune system activator and reduced nausea in patients who were ill with cancer drugs and chemotherapy. In addition, tumor shrinkage was shown in 1995 during a study in Israel.
Moreover some research indicates that Delta 8 possibly helps people create a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that is responsible for memory, cognition, arousal, and neuroplasticity.
Owing to the less extreme psychoactive effects, Delta-8 can handle a broader variety of cancer patients as it is easier to fight loss of appetite than Delta-9. And some cancer patients don’t use Delta-9 because of the fear they experience when they take it. Delta-8 has less discomforting side effects so that it can treat a broader variety of cancer patients. When CBD is applied to Delta-8, the psychotropic effect reduces even further so that you get the advantages of Delta-8 along with CBD with little to no high.
Another good thing about Delta-8 THC is that it is legal in every state that marijuana and hemp related CBD are medically or recreationally legal. Delta-8 falls into a form of regulatory grey area as it can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants and can be converted from a CBD which has zero Delta-9 THC present. If traces of Delta-9 THC are present, it must be below the federally controlled level of 0.3 per cent.
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