Despite its growing popularity and claims about its psychedelic effects similar to LSD or psilocybin mushrooms, THC-O-acetate, a cannabinoid derived from delta-8 THC, does not cause major narcotic experiences, according to a recent study. The research warns of potential health concerns related to THC-O-acetate due to its acetate composition, which when heated can produce toxic gases, and potential product contamination.

UB researchers advise caution because THC-O-acetate is receiving increasing attention.

The cannabis plant is complex, containing nearly 100 hemp or chemical compounds, many of which remain largely unexplored by science. The two most widely used active ingredients are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – has been extensively researched.

However, a variety of other cannabinoids are quickly appearing on the market. One of the newer such substances is THC-O-acetate, which has attracted interest due to discussions on social media, online communities such as Reddit, and even some promotional materials from manufacturers, suggesting that its effects are similar to narcotic substances such as LSD or LSD. psilocybin mushrooms.

But claims of a mystical experience are greatly exaggerated, according to a University at Buffalo study published in the journal Nature Journal of Psychoactive Drugs This is the first to examine the purported narcotic effects of THC-O-acetate.

THC-O-acetate is a semi-synthetic compound derived from delta-8 THC, another cannabinoid that has garnered a lot of attention in the past few years among curious consumers, as well as state legislatures concerned about its potential dangers. (In New Jersey, where cannabis is legal, lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would ban Delta 8 products.)

“THC-O-acetate has gotten a lot of attention because people say it’s stronger than regular THC and there are claims that it produces narcotic effects. We wanted to study this and see, is there really a cannabinoid? Can we find evidence that THC-O is O-acetate has this effect? ​​“And the answer is, not much,” says study lead author Daniel J. Kruger, PhD, associate professor in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and a research scientist in the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs College of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. in Ub.

Krueger and study co-author Jessica S. Krueger, PhD, clinical assistant professor of Community Health and Health Behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, conducted a study last year that surveyed users’ experiences with Delta-8 THC. THC). . Taking a look at THC-O-acetate was the next logical step.

There is also a public health area of ​​their interest in this particular type of cannabinoid: It is an acetate, and when the acetate is heated, it can produce chitin, which is a toxic gas. In 2019, more than 2,800 people were hospitalized and 68 deaths were reported from a condition called “e-cigarette, vaping, product use-related lung injury” (EVALI) after smoking products containing vitamin E acetate.

The 2018 Farm Bill created a loophole

The passage of the Farm Bill by Congress in 2018 made cannabis cultivation legal at the federal level. Basically, hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound that creates the “high” that people feel. While it made the cultivation of hemp legal, the Farm Bill inadvertently created a loophole allowing manufacturers to produce and sell thousands of CBD-containing products. Many are marketed with claims such as “aiding sleep,” “relieving pain,” and “calming pets.”

But such claims are often unverified, and little research has been done to better understand the contents of products sold online, at gas stations, convenience stores, and shops across the country.

“It opened up completely new markets for cannabis companies and created a kind of gray market pathway,” says Daniel Krueger. “It’s kind of like the Wild West. There’s a huge demand for CBD products and companies have jumped in to supply that demand. Of course, they want to make a product that stands out and gets noticed. Everyone has CBD, and here’s something else.”

Enter THC-O-Acetate.

For the study, Krueger and his colleagues developed a survey that asked nearly 300 participants to indicate how much they experienced the following when using THC-O-acetate: altered sense of time, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, euphoria, hallucinations, and pain relief. Paranoia and relaxation.

Participants also completed items from the Mysterious Experience Questionnaire (MEQ), a classic tool for assessing psychedelic experiences developed by Walter Bahnke in the 1960s. They were also asked what, if any, drug they used, such as LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.

When asked directly, 79% answered that using THC-O-acetate was “not at all” or “little” a narcotic experience. Participants’ responses were well below the threshold for the full ambiguous trial, and those who used the classic anesthetic had lower scores on all dimensions of MEQ. The most notable experiences reported were mild relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief.

So why have some people reported a psychedelic experience with THC-O acetate? Kruger says there are three possible explanations:

  • It may be due to expectations based on what users have heard or read.
  • Some users may have experienced a high that was so intense they thought it was a drug.
  • The product may contain contaminants.

The latter, researchers say, is particularly worrisome from a public health standpoint. “People have to be careful,” says Daniel Kruger. “Some of these extreme effects could be due to some kind of contamination, and that’s one of the real dangers of these products if you don’t really know what’s in them.”

Some companies will include a QR code on the product label, directing consumers to a website with information about what exactly is in the product. But many don’t.

“There is a lot of interest in delta-8 and THC-O-acetate, and there are a lot of claims being made about them with almost no research,” says Daniel Krueger. “They’re really new to the consumer market, and cannabis still has this weird mix of policies where it’s illegal at the federal level, so we don’t have national regulations, and certainly not the kind of test you might have with a prescription drug.”

Reference: “THC-O-Acetate: Scarce Evidence for a Cannabinoid Cannabis Substance” by Daniel J. Krugerra, Carlton C.B. Boone, and Meredith C. Meacham, Charles Klein, and Jessica S. Kruger, June 29, 2023, Available Here. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
doi: 10.1080/02791072.2023.2230573

The research team included Carlton “CB” Boone, a graduate student at Portland State University at the time who studied cannabis culture online and ran an online forum. Additional study co-authors are Meredith C. Meacham, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and Charles Kline, PhD, a medical anthropologist at Portland State.

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