The cannabis plant contains approximately 100 identified cannabinoids, although the traditional cannabinoids (THC and CBD) dominate the cannabis industry. However, promulgating the 2018 Farm Bill into law led to the influx of novel hemp-derived THC cannabinoids.
THC-O, alias the “spiritual cannabinoid,” is one such product with psychoactive effects. The cannabinoid is available in multiple consumable forms, including THC-O vape and THC-O gummies.
However, is TH-O safe to consume, and do governing state authorities consider the cannabinoid safe to consume? Keep reading to learn more about THC O and whether it is worth trying.
THC-O acetate or THC-O is a synthetic delta-9 THC analog or a THC ester. Analogs are compounds that share a similar molecular formula but have different intramolecular atom arrangements. On the other hand, esters are chemicals derived from an acid by replacing a hydroxyl (-OH) group with an alkyl (–O– alkyl) group. While most esters occur naturally, acid-derived esters are synthetic substances. THC-O is a synthetic ester, meaning it does not occur naturally in cannabis plants varieties like hemp and marijuana. Nonetheless, THC-O acetate is a cannabinoid because one expert review defines cannabinoids as any chemical compound, regardless of origin and structure, that bind to endogenous cannabinoid receptors and produces effects similar to cannabis’ cannabinoids.
Although THC-O acetate produces effects similar to delta-9 THC in the body, one study concluded that the synthetic compound is 2-3 times more potent than THC. The US Army Chemical Corps conducted the study under the Edgewood Arsenal experiments to establish THC-O acetate’s capacity to induce reversible cerebellar ataxia (involuntary muscle control loss).
At the end of the study, it emerged that THC-O acetate was most effective in causing immobilization. The cannabinoid produced the most intense psychedelic effects of all compounds used in the study, including delta-9 THC. Consequently, cannabis enthusiasts refer to THC-O acetate as the “spiritual cannabinoid” because THC-O products, especially THC-O gummies, are more potent than delta-8 THC and even delta-9 THC products.
One fact cannabis consumers are curious about is whether THC-O occurs naturally. Over 100 cannabinoids, but THC-O acetate is not found naturally in the plant. It is a synthetic compound derived from a series of chemical reactions.
As earlier stated, THC-O acetate is a THC analog synthetic ester formed during an acid reaction. The acid used industrially to make THC is acetic anhydride (ethanol anhydride), a popular acetylation agent. Acetylation is a chemical esterification reaction entailing replacing the functional (-OH) group in a chemical with an acetate group, forming a synthetic substance with an acetate functional group.
The acid in the esterification process acts on a THC analog because THC-O is a THC ester. Although delta -9 THC is the more potent of the two cannabinoids, it comes from marijuana plants, making it federally illegal and unavailable in most states.
On the other hand, delta-8 THC is a federally legal hemp-derived compound. Therefore, D8 THC is a more practical option for use in an industrial esterification process.
Although D8 THC is among the cannabinoids found naturally in the hemp plant, it occurs in trace amounts, making its industrial-scale extraction from hemp impossible. Therefore, the cannabis industry’s professional chemists replicate isomerization, a naturally occurring process via which one cannabinoid transforms into another to convert CBD into delta-8 THC. However, natural isomerization takes time; hence the chemists use catalysts to hasten the process and the delta 8 THC yield.
CBD isomerization is the first process in THC-O esterification. Once D8 THC extraction is complete, the professional chemists add acetic anhydride to the delta-8 molecules, facilitating the esterification reaction.
Delta-8 THC molecules lose their -OH functional group during the reaction to form THC-O molecules featuring an active acetate group. The acetate group has different binding capacities than the -OH group in THC products and may explain why THC-O products are more potent than traditional cannabis compounds.
Manufacturers then infuse the realized THC-O into THC-O products like THC-O gummies like peach rings and THC-O vapes for consumers to enjoy the astronomical potency.
Nobody lacking adequate professional training on cannabis chemistry should interact with any chemicals used in THC esterification because the chemicals are highly flammable, corrosive, and volatile.
For instance, by contacting the esterification chemicals, you can sustain adverse chemical burns and eye problems. Second, inhaling the chemicals adversely affects the nose and throat, causing a serious medical condition or fatality.
Moreover, even professional cannabis chemists cannot use the chemicals outside highly controlled and closely monitored factory settings with specialized equipment due to their high volatility. Therefore, never attempt to make THC-O at home.
THC-O opponents refer to this federal law to justify why THC-O products like THC-O vape and THC-O gummies should not be considered legal, despite THC-O being a hemp-derived product.
Second, the potent and dangerous chemicals used to derive synthetic cannabinoids like THC-O concern various societal groups, including state legislators. The potency aspect extends to THC-O itself.
The Controlled Substances Act referenced earlier classified drugs as Schedule 1 substances based on factors like high potential for abuse and inadequate empirical research proving medical efficacy. Unlike CBD products, THC-O products have astronomical potency levels, presenting the immense potential for abuse.
THC-O’s synthetic nature and potency allow state governments to declare THC-O products banned substances within their jurisdictions. Consequently, you cannot have a THC-O vape or THC-O gummies delivered to your doorstep in at least 12 US states.
Therefore, ensure that THC-O is legal in your jurisdiction before taking it should it appear in standard drug tests. You can read more about THC-O and drug tests later in this article. Lastly, the legal framework on delta-9 THC analogs derived from hemp is constantly changing, so buy THC-O vape or some gummies while such products are legal in your jurisdiction.
While natural cannabinoids are relatively safe, THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid. Although the synthetic chemical existed as early as 1940, there is no mention of its use after the Edgewood Arsenal experiments.
Consequently, there is empirical data on THC-O’s safety or its long-term effects on health. Nonetheless, there are no reports of adverse THC-O consumption effects.
Second, the cannabis industry is highly unregulated, making product quality the most significant threat to consumer safety. The FDA classified THC-O as a supplemental dietary product, meaning it undergoes less production scrutiny than prescription medications. Low-quality products may contain contaminants like solvent residue and heavy metals.
Therefore, only purchase products with a third-party lab results certificate Showing that the manufacturer adhered to the highest quality standards in making the THC-O vape or gummy. Trustworthy brands post the third-party lab results on their product page or feature a QR code on the lab-tested product’s packaging to direct you to the results.
THC-O delivers powerful psychoactive properties characterized by an intense cerebral “high,” heightened emotions, and introspection. The intensity may cause visual distortions and psychedelic effects similar to those induced by psychedelic products like LSD. Moreover, the drug’s psychoactive characteristics also include a sense of euphoria.
However, THC-O is biphasic or acts in a dose-dependent manner. Mild doses may trigger a euphoric effect, while potent doses could cause physical and cognitive incapacitation. Also, THC-O’s effect is individual-specific; thus, individuals may have different experiences with a similar dose.
THC-O products are a recent addition to the cannabis market, meaning that the available empirical research on their therapeutic benefits is scarce. However, building on the fact that the drug is a THC analog with THC-like effects, it may have the following therapeutic benefits.
The synthetic THC ester may induce stress and anxiety relief at low doses. One study shows that THC has anxiolytic effects at low doses.
Another study showed that cannabis compounds, including THC, administered via inhalation or ingestion, induced analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. Therefore, THC-O may aid with pain relief.
However, note that the above therapeutic benefits are from speculation and anecdotal evidence. Therefore, do not use THC-O products to substitute prescription medications for any medical condition without seeking your doctor’s advice.
According to one government report, synthetic cannabinoids like THC-O overstimulate the endocannabinoid system receptors and are likely to cause undesirable side effects. Possible THC-O side effects include:
Although the side effects are more likely to occur with potent doses, seek a medical doctor’s advice should you notice any symptoms.
THC-O is a prodrug that requires endogenous enzymatic activation to kick in. The enzymes convert THC-O molecules into potent THC metabolites that induce the synthetic substance’s effects. Therefore, a THC-O vape will take significantly longer (approximately 30 minutes) to kick in than delta-9 THC vape or CBD products.
THC-O shares similar metabolites to delta-9 THC, a Schedule 1 substance detectable using standard drug tests. Such drug screening tests analyze drug metabolite presence in a sample rather than the precede of the drug in question. Therefore, THC-O will appear in a drug test, and one expert review shows that THC metabolites are detectable for 3-30 days in a urine sample, depending on consumption frequency.
The only similarity between D8 and THC-O is that both are THC analogs derived from hemp. Also, D8 is the THC analog used to synthesize THC-O during isomerization, but the two are different substances.
As stated above, THC-O is biphasic and delivers individual-specific effects. Therefore, start low and go slow on the dosage, especially if you have a medical condition and are taking medication that could trigger a negative drug interaction.
The Strawberry Dream disposable THC-O vape by Astroeight is arguably the highest-quality THC-O vape on the market. It features delicious fruity flavors and induces an invigorating cerebral “high.”
The Pineapple Express THC-O vape features delectable terpenes from the sativa-dominant Pineapple Express cannabis strain. Although multiple brands offer product variations, Astroeight sells 2.2ml lab-tested vapes that induce pleasant euphoria.
Pineapple Expresses THC-O carts have similar features to the disposable version. The primary difference between the two products is that you use the cartridge in a reusable vape device.
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