Delta-8 derived has become a very popular “legal loophole” to get high.
CBD brands are offering delta-8 extracts made from Farm Bill compliant hemp crops in familiar product variations from gummies, capsules, oils, and concentrates for their mildly uplifting effects.
And there seems to be a large demand for this cannabinoid as many people enjoy delta-8 THC as a much less intense version of a marijuana high.
This article will explore whether delta-8 THC is an addictive substance.
The short answer to this question is yes, delta-8 can be mildly addictive—all substances that alter mood and body function are potentially addictive, like caffeine and sugar.
That being said, delta-8 THC has a low threshold for risk.
Unlike other compounds like prescription medication and other street drugs, delta-8 doesn't have a high risk for threatening most user’s physical or mental health. We'll discuss signs of delta-8 THC addiction and potential side-effects and long-term risks.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of the notorious delta-9 THC molecule, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana plants. Delta-8 exists in small quantities in cannabis, but it can be converted from hemp-derived CBD.
If you convert CBD into delta-8, you end up with a federally legal cannabis derivative that's regulated under the 2018 Farm Bill, depending on how you interpret the bill. Some states have started to regulate delta-8 THC, but right now, it's become a hot product that exists in a legal grey area to experience a marijuana-like high.
Research surrounding delta-8 THC is still quite limited, and the FDA has not approved this cannabinoid for therapeutic use, but it hasn't stopped many cannabis enthusiasts from trying the compound. Many people report delta-8 THC as a milder, more pleasant experience compared to marijuana. People use delta-8 to alleviate pain, manage stress, or as a tool for introspection.
How Does Delta-8 Compare to Marijuana Delta-9 THC?
Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive agent in marijuana plants that alters mood and perception. While THC is found to have therapeutic properties, its effects to cause intoxication makes it an undesirable option for most people and is still federally illegal. However, 34 states have legalized the use of THC for medicinal and recreational use.
Delta-8 THC is a variation of the THC molecule that has become very popular as a "legal loophole" to experiencing the mild intoxicating effects of THC. Delta-8 can be derived from hemp plants under the Farm Bill, and people who use delta-8 say it feels like a cross between CBD and THC.
A common experience with the marijuana high is the feelings of introversion, nervousness, and anxiety—because delta-8 is a much milder compound, it's anecdotally reported to have fewer side-effects associated with marijuana use, and it takes roughly double the dosage of delta-8 to reach the psychoactive high as delta-9.
Another area in which these two cannabinoids are dissimilar is their extraction methods.
Delta-9 THC is abundant in marijuana, and its extraction isn't resource-intensive. On the other hand, delta-8 exists in small quantities and is usually produced by converting CBD into delta-8, which is expensive.
Is Delta-8 Addictive?
Delta-8 THC isn't inherently addictive. However, regular use of delta-8 THC can lead to addiction.
The truth is that any substance that affects the body and brain function can lead to dependence. Substance-related addiction is incredibly complex and is a result of a variety of circumstances.
Compared to addictive substances like prescribed opioids and other street drugs, delta-8 THC addiction is mild and uncommon. However, sustained use can lead someone to develop a dependence on the substance due to tolerance.
Tolerance builds when you need stronger doses of a substance to reach the desired effects. You've likely experienced tolerance from caffeine. As you continue to drink caffeine in the mornings, you may not experience the buzz. It could take two or three cups to feel more alert over time.
You know your body has become dependant on a substance when you don't feel quite right without it.
Sticking to the example of caffeine, many people who are addicted to caffeine may experience irritability and headaches without their morning cup of joe.
A similar thing can happen with delta-8 THC.
It's very easy to build a tolerance on delta-8 THC, especially if you're consuming concentrates. With regular use, the effects of delta-8 THC become less potent, and you'll need to increase the dose and frequency of use to feel the same "high." This can eventually lead to compulsive use, where users feel as though they can't function normally without using delta-8.
To avoid building a dependence on delta-8, it's recommended to take tolerance breaks.
The withdrawal symptoms of Delta-8 are typically mild. If an individual develops physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms might range from irritability to sleeplessness and appetite loss. The symptoms usually stick around for a few days before fading away.
Even though these addiction symptoms can precipitate uncertainty or discomfort, they don't compare to the withdrawal symptoms of substances like opioids or methamphetamine.
What Causes Addiction?
Humans can develop an addiction to many substances, and the mechanisms of addiction are incredibly complex as they can relate to both physical and psychological dependence. And so, the chances of a person getting addicted to the use of delta-8 mostly hinges on their circumstances.
Genetics and environmental factors can influence an individual's susceptibility to addiction .
Some of the common psychological circumstances that lead to addiction include depression, stress, and pain. Thus, the individual may lose themselves to an activity or a substance that helps them avoid confronting pain.
An addiction is discerned by the way a substance or activity affects one's day-to-day functioning. The severity of the addiction is measured by how distressed someone experiences if they don't get their fix.
How Can You Tell If You're Addicted to Delta-8?
If you're concerned about the risks of the mildly addictive properties of delta-8 and want a way to self-assess your behavior to the compound to avoid the destructive outcomes of addiction, here are some of the signs that you may have a problem
- Isolation: you may start to feel the need to get away from your friends and family. The problem is exacerbated by complex thoughts that make you want to stay in your world.
- High intake level: there's the recommended dosage for delta-8 products. But when the addiction kicks in, you start consuming infinitely large quantities.
- Irresponsibility: you start to abandon important commitments both in your personal and professional life, and you're using the substance to cope with issues.
- Mental preoccupation: you feel anxious when you don't have access to delta-8, and you spend a lot of time thinking about using it.
- You can't quit: you're tried and failed to take breaks from delta-8 THC use.
- Family & friends complain about your substance use: your friends and family are becoming concerned about your delta-8 use, and it's impacting your relationships.
If you've related to these statements, you may be suffering from a delta-8 THC addiction to some degree, but you shouldn't feel discouraged as there are many resources available to you to seek help. It would be best if you contacted an addiction counselor or related specialist in your area for support.
Can You Build a Tolerance to Delta-8?
Research on how the body builds up a tolerance to Delta-8 is limited, but experts suggest that how the body develops tolerance to delta-8 is similar to how it develops tolerance to delta-9.
Regular consumption of delta-8 products can alter the brain's neural pathways, thus causing the body to minimize the sensitivity of CB1 receptors . Frequent use of the compound means your body isn't as sensitive to its effects, which means you'll need high doses to reach the same levels of effects.
The good news is that you can adjust your high tolerance from delta-8 THC by taking frequent T-breaks or tolerance breaks. The length of your T-break is up to you as there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to effective tolerance breaks. Some people find that a few days of stopping delta-8 THC use can do the trick to re-set their tolerance, while others advise that 2-weeks.
The Takeaway: Delta-8 Is Mildly Addictive
Delta-8 THC has the potential for addiction, but it's much less so than delta-9 THC from marijuana use.
Compared to other highly addictive compounds such as amphetamines and opioids that hijack the reward and motivation centers of the brain, delta-8 THC use don't result in a significant surge to throw off the balance of this reward system. However, genetics and environmental circumstances can lead someone to become dependant on delta-8 THC use to function.
Addiction to delta-8 can be avoided by being mindful of the frequency and doses of use. Regular use of delta-8 THC should be avoided. Thankfully, delta-8 is a relatively low-risk substance, and the withdrawals of delta-8 are mild and short-lived.
If you start to experience delta-8 THC addiction signs, you should seek professional help from a counselor or doctor.
- Bevilacqua, L., & Goldman, D. (2009). Genes and addictions. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, 85(4), 359.
- Hirvonen, J., Goodwin, R. S., Li, C. T., Terry, G. E., Zoghbi, S. S., Morse, C., ... & Innis, R. B. (2012). Reversible and regionally selective downregulation of brain cannabinoid CB 1 receptors in chronic daily cannabis smokers. Molecular psychiatry, 17(6), 642-649