By now, you’ve probably heard of CBD (cannabidiol, an ingredient in cannabis) and the claims of wide-ranging benefits. But there are other related products popping up all over the marketplace that are making headlines and causing quite a bit of concern.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Like CBD, delta-8 (delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol) is just one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant. Most people are familiar with THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that gives you a euphoric high.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of CBD products (which don’t get you high) on the federal level in the U.S. as long as they contain less than .3% of THC. In theory, this would allow federal legalization of CBD products with delta-8 under those same guidelines, but doctors, like internal medicine specialist Paul Terpeluk, DO, are expressing concerns about delta-8 products because delta-8 is psychoactive and produces same or similar highs as THC.
“Delta-8 can have about 50% to 80% of the psychoactive effect as delta-9 (THC), which means it can get you high but not as much,” says Dr. Terpeluk.
Potential side effects of using delta-8
There isn’t enough research done on delta-8 to determine exactly how it varies from CBD and THC and whether it provides any positive benefits, but some studies suggest delta-8 may assist with a few medical conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, stress and depression.
Naturally, delta-8 is found in very small amounts in cannabis plants. But concentrated amounts of delta-8 can be synthetically created from CBD in a lab, meaning many CBD products on the market right now have much higher levels of delta-8 than what’s naturally occurring in raw extracts.
“What you’re starting to see across the spectrum of CBD marketing is that they’re specifically saying their CBD oil contains high levels of delta-8,” says Dr. Terpeluk.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that many of the chemicals used in synthesizing delta-8 may be harmful. Since it’s so similar to THC, many of its usual side effects might be heightened, and could include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Trouble standing.
- Memory loss.
- Trouble with coordination.
- Dry mouth.
- Changes in appetite and weight.
Is delta-8 legal?
The legality of delta-8 is still being decided at the federal level. In November 2021, Texas temporarily lifted restriction on the sale of delta-8 products after deciding a previous classification of delta-8 as a Schedule 1 drug didn’t meet administration requirements. According to Reuters, as of August 2021, 18 states have banned or placed restrictions on delta-8, and this may continue to be in flux.
“On some level, it’s an unregulated manufacturing market for drugs,” says Dr. Terpeluk.
If you’re considering using a delta-8 product, it’s highly encouraged that you check your state laws first and speak to a licensed healthcare provider about whether it’s safe. Even then, there may be some high risk involved: According to the FDA, there was an increase in calls to poison control centers related to delta-8 between January 1, 2021 and July 31, 2021, with 41% of those calls involving children.