Delta-8 THC Has ‘Serious Health Risks’ Warns Two Federal Agencies

Vomiting, hallucinations, trouble standing and loss of consciousness are some of the adverse effects associated with consuming hemp-derived products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in a warning statement Sept. 14.

Deep sedation, slowed breathing, irregular heart rates and decreased blood pressure were some of the symptoms experienced by children who ingested a parent’s delta-8-infused gummies purchased from a vape shop, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a separate health advisory statement Sept. 14.

The admonitions come after months of rising consumer demand and poison control reports associated with the cannabinoid, which is naturally found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Concentrated amounts of delta-8 can be manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) and then introduced to products that are sometimes marketed as “weed light” or “diet weed,” according to the CDC.

Many states have already taken action to ban or regulate delta-8 products, which gained traction from, perhaps, a legal loophole—the 2018 Farm Bill specifically defines the legal delta-9 THC concentration of 0.3% for hemp but does not define delta-8 concentrations.

But enforcing those bans can face obstacles with online marketing and mislabeled delta-8 products, which have the potential to be confused with hemp or CBD products that are not intoxicating, according to the CDC.

“The health effects of delta-8 THC have not yet been researched extensively and are not well-understood,” the CDC stated. “However, delta-8 THC is psychoactive and may have similar risks of impairment as delta-9 THC. As such, products that contain delta-8 THC but are labeled with only delta-9 THC content rather than with total THC content likely underestimate the psychoactive potential of these products for consumers.”

The CDC referenced a 1973 article that estimated delta-8 to be about 50%-75% as psychoactive as delta-9.

In its warning statement, “5 Things to Know About Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol,” the FDA said delta-8 has “serious health risks,” and it has not evaluated or approved delta-8 products for safe use in any context, specifically calling to keep the cannabinoid out of reach of children and pets.

“Some of these products may be labeled simply as ‘hemp products,’ which may mislead consumers who associate ‘hemp’ with ‘non-psychoactive,’” the FDA stated. “Furthermore, the FDA is concerned by the proliferation of products that contain delta-8 THC and are marketed for therapeutic or medical uses, although they have not been approved by the FDA. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of law but also can put consumers at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective.”

National poison control centers received 661 exposure cases of delta-8 THC products between January 2018 and July 31, 2021, 660 of which occurred between Jan. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021, according to the FDA.

Of the 661 exposure cases:

  • 41% involved unintentional exposure to delta-8 THC and 77% of these unintentional exposures affected pediatric under 18 years of age. 
  • 39% (258 cases) involved pediatric under 18

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