Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC, is the cannabis compound responsible for getting you high when you smoke a joint. There are many variants of THC making rounds in the market today, with delta-9 THC being the most common.
Other forms like delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC have also been gaining craze-like popularity. And if that's not enough, THC-O, seemingly out of nowhere, is now taking the limelight in the cannabis industry.
THC-O is being advertised as a tremendously potent compound, with many sources touting it to be 300 times stronger than delta-9 THC. But, what is THC-O? Is it legal? Is it safe? And does it live up to this hype?
What Is THC-O?
Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate, often abbreviated as THC-O, THC-O acetate, or ATHC, is a man-made analog of THC. Meaning that it doesn't occur naturally in hemp or cannabis plants.
Instead, THC-O is an acetylated form of delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC or THCA. Acetylation is a chemical process where an acetyl group replaces a compound's hydrogen group to make THC-O acetate.
THC-O is extremely potent. According to experts, it is three times stronger and 300% as psychoactive as delta-9 THC. Though THC-O products deliver closely similar effect as other forms of THC, its high is more psychedelic.
The History Of THC-O
Although THC-O products only recently hit the shelves, the THC-O compound has existed for decades now.
Back in the late 1940s, the Edgewood Arsenal facility in Maryland tested THCO on dogs. The military conducted this experiment to determine if the cannabinoid could be used as a weapon to debilitate rival soldiers.
The experiment concluded that THC-O could cause ataxia (extreme loss of full control of bodily movements).
Is THC-O A Naturally occurring cannabinoid?- How Is THC-O Made?
THC-O is not a naturally occurring compound. And you cannot possibly extract it from hemp or cannabis plants like you do delta-8 or delta-9 THC.
Synthesizing THC-O is inherently dangerous, volatile, and requires special equipment, making it virtually impossible to do at home. So don't waste your time taking notes.
THC-O is made from other forms of THC like delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC is extracted from the natural CBD sourced from hemp plants.
The process of making THC-O involves adding acetic anhydride (a highly flammable & potentially explosive compound) to delta-8 THC molecules to convert them into THC-O acetate.
Considering the risks involved in making THC-O, the process is better off done in a laboratory environment with a vacuum hood and by trained chemists.
Why Is THC-O Way Stronger Than Regular THC?
THC-O is still the new kid on the block, and its research is still very early in its infancy. This means that information about the compound is very limited. However, it is evident that THC-O is so much stronger than your regular THC.
The most important thing to note is that THC-O is a prodrug. Meaning that it remains inactive until the liver has metabolized it.
After metabolism, the unique (-O) group in THC-O is removed, and the compound is converted into THC. Okay, how then is it any stronger?
In theory, the potency of THC-O is greatly determined by its bioavailability. Unlike regular THC, acetylated THC is highly bioavailable so that it is easily absorbed and circulated in the body.
In addition, the unique acetate group (-O) allows the molecule to easily cross lipid-sensitive layers in the digestive system and brain, unlike regular THC.
How Long Do THC-O Effects Take To Kick In?
Since THC-O is a prodrug, its effects may take longer to kick in.
When you consume a delta-9 THC product orally, it can take 15-30 minutes to feel its effects. Comparably, THC-O product effects can take up to 60 minutes to kick in.
The onset of effects when smoking delta-9 THC flower is almost instant. On the other hand, you will feel the effects of smoking THC-O after about 20 minutes.
What's unique about THC-O effects is that they deliver a psychedelic experience, closely similar to the intoxication of psilocybin. For this reason, enthusiasts have nicknamed it 'the spiritual cannabinoid.'
Once THC-O effects begin to kick in, they come on extremely fast, and the peak is experienced after about 20 minutes.
Novices are advised to be patient and wait at least 2 hours before taking a second dose if the first dose 'is not working' after an hour.
What Are The Benefits Of Using THC-O?
Research and clinical studies into the health or therapeutic benefits of THC-O are lacking. However, according to anecdotal reports, THC-O delivers similar benefits to other forms of THC, only more potent:
• Relieving chronic pain
• Helping with insomnia
• Alleviating anxiety
• Stimulating appetite
THC-O has also been reported to deliver the following recreation benefits:
• Profound relaxation
• Strong body and mental buzz
• Enhanced happiness
• Deep restfulness
• Psychedelic. visual, and spiritual experience
Is THC-O Better Than Delta-9 THC?
THC-O and delta-9 THC are closely similar in terms of their chemical structure and the effects delivered when consumed.
The major difference in their chemical structures is that THC-O possesses a unique functional group (-O) that makes it significantly stronger than regular THC.
THC-O and Delta-9 THC deliver a similar high- accompanied by subtle mind alterations. However, there is a significant difference in emphasis of the experience.
THC-O is said to cause a heavier high that leaves you stoned and incapacitated for some hours. Its headspace can easily make even the most seasoned user zone out, and its trip can be highly spiritual, accompanied by strong visual experiences. Though insightful, this experience can be quite uncomfortable for some.
On the flip side, the high of delta-9 THC is more stimulating and only about a third as strong as THC-O when consumed at the same dose.
The choice between THC-O and delta-9 THC is a matter of personal choice. Perhaps you prefer the gentle nudge of regular THC, or maybe you like the violent push of THC-O? The ultimate decision is up to you.
Is THC-O Safe?
So far, there are no reported cases of THC-O overdose. However, its safety is still unclear. While there is no solid data to suggest that it is a dangerous cannabinoid, none suggests that it is safe either.
Although THC-O is not associated with the adverse effects of synthetic nonclassical cannabinoids like Spice and K2, some users have reported the following side effects:
• An intense high and psychedelic experience that may not please some users.
• Dry mouth
With that in mind, there are major concerns for smoking, dabbing, and vaping THC-O. Some experts suggest that the acetate group in THCO may cause lung damage. Rigorous research is required to establish the accurate safety profile of THC-O.
Is THC-O Legal?
Currently, yes. THC-O is a derivative of hemp, which is legal at a federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill.
However, given its potency and close similarity to delta-9 THC, its future remains uncertain. Additionally, its opponents argue that because it is technically analogous to schedule 1 drug (THC), THC-O is arguably a schedule 1 drug as well based on the 1986 Federal Analogue Act.
But since its origin stretches back to hemp, THC-O exists in a legal gray area. And because hemp and its related products are not FDA regulated, users are strongly advised to approach it with caution.
The Best Way To Consume THC-O
There are numerous ways that you can consume THC-O to experience its amazing unparalleled effects:
• THC-O Gummies
THC-O gummies are quickly becoming popular. They are made by infusing a pre-measured dose of THC-O into delightfully delicious gummy candies. Gummies are especially preferred because they are palatable, straightforward to consume, safe, and easy to calculate the dose.
• THC-O Tinctures
Tinctures are perhaps the best way to consume any cannabis product. They deliver near-instant and highly potent effects without exposing your lungs to the risks of smoking or vaping. THC-O tinctures are safe and ideal for people seeking very potent effects.
• THC-O Vapes
Though THC-O vape carts are available on the market, their safety is a great concern. Experts caution that they may cause the same side effects of vitamin E acetate, like serious lung damage. Until the safety profile and potential dangers of vaping THC-O are studied, users are strongly advised against this consumption method.
The Bottom Line
THC-O is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid. Rather, it is a man-made chemical synthesized from other forms of THC like delta-8 THC or THCA. Although not officially confirmed, THC-O is anecdotally stronger than delta-9 THC.
Research into the benefits and potential side effects of THC-O are still in their early stages. Meanwhile, users are advised to approach THC-O products with great caution. The safest thing to do is start with minimal THC-O doses and gradually work your way up.