What is THC-O?

THC-O is another recent entrant into the rapidly expanding arena of cannabinoids derived from legal hemp plants. That’s because, since the introduction of Delta 8 THC, the doors of discovery have opened wider for both cannabinoid consumers and retail outfits offering the growing array of legal cannabinoids now on the marketplace. Some of this movement may be attributed to a backlash against the dreadful consequences and problems which have arisen with the proliferation of prescription opioids.

You could reasonably argue that Delta 8 THC openly challenged the staid and restrictive policies against cannabis since it is protected under the umbrella of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Anyone who has consumed a product containing Delta 8 THC can readily attest, this cannabinoid acts remarkably similar to Delta 9 THC (the one cannabinoid in the cannabis plant not contained in the hemp plant in large percentages). Delta 8 THC slips under the legal radar thanks to the fact that the Hemp Farming Act also legalizes all isomers and derivatives of the hemp plant; since Delta 8 THC is an isomer of cannabidiol (CBD) it remains protected. For this reason, exploring and discovering new cannabinoids and compounds of the hemp plant will continue at an ever-increasing pace.

Delta 8 THC can get you high, though not as strongly as Delta 9 THC but close enough to satisfy thousands (if not millions) of consumers unable to legally obtain Delta 9 THC products. However, it doesn’t merely act as a replacement as is evident by the similar popularity of Delta 8 THC in states where Delta 9 THC is legal (either recreationally or medically). Many consumers claim that Delta 8 THC further augments and enhances the effects on their endocannabinoid system, just as combining other cannabinoids (like CBD, CBG, and CBN) appear to create synergistic effects and results. Others appreciate the lighter effects when compared to Delta 9 THC.

Most consumers readily admit that the psychotropic effects delivered through Delta 8 THC are also appreciated. Some argue it actually contributes to more effective outcomes when consuming it together with other legal cannabinoids since the mind, when influenced by a psychotropic compound, is more relaxed and less resistant to new experiences and effects.

However, just as these consumers are learning to appreciate the effects Delta 8 THC offers them, they are also curious to learn what other isomers and derivatives of the hemp plant may be uncovered and presented for their experimentation and hopefully pleasure and well-being.

And this brings us to THC-O.

Meet THC-O

It was just a matter of time before another mind-altering cannabinoid would catch the public’s attention. You will hear multiple ways to refer to this new cannabinoid but the scientific term “tetrahydrocannabinol-o-acetate” has also been called THC acetate ester, THC-O-acetate, or THC-O-A. For practical purposes, most people call it “THC-O” (or “THCO”) even though this is technically a misnomer (because acetate, an essential element of this compound, should be included in the description). For purposes of simplicity and clarity, we will also use the most popular term of “THC-O” for the remainder of this article.

Where Delta 8 THC is an isomer of Delta 9 THC (both compounds contain the same molecular formula but are arranged differently), THC-O is a derivative. This means it is synthesized from the THC compound but has a different molecular formula. As already stated, derivatives from the hemp plant are also protected by Hemp Farming Act, so THC-O qualifies as another legal substance produced from this nearly-miraculous hemp plant.

However, it’s not its legality that has consumers so excited over the introduction of THC-O but its effects and potency that has everyone talking positively about this compound. Many consumers are declaring that the psychotropic properties of THC-O go far beyond that of Delta 9 THC, entering the realm of the psychedelic; others describe the effects as blissful and spiritual. Another unusual feature of this new compound is that, unlike Delta 8 THC or Delta 9 THC, it can take as long as an hour for effects to become noticeable, so patience is strongly urged.

Clearly, THC-O deserves a closer look, so let’s start with its known beginnings.

The Sketchy History of THC-O

It may surprise you to learn that THC-O has been studied in various manners for more than half a century. It was originally developed and tested as a possible non-lethal incapacitating agent during experiments by the U. S. Army Chemical Corps between the period 1949 and 1975. As it did not effectively incapacitate the human test subjects, it was set aside and forgotten (even though dogs showed double the ataxia effects (lack of muscle coordination) when dosed with THC-O than when administered Delta 9 THC).

THC-O also earned a mention in the 1974 book, “Cannabis Alchemy: Art of Modern Hashmaking” by D. Gold. The rather general and vague description in that publication offered the following statement concerning THC-O:

“The effect of the acetate is more spiritual and psychedelic than that of the ordinary product. The most unique property of this material is that there is a delay of about thirty minutes before its effects are felt.”

(It should be emphasized that this statement is an anecdotal claim rather than a summary or extract from a scientific experiment.)

In 1978 the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) encountered THC-O. Of course, the DEA, with an existing prejudice against any and all things related to cannabis, compared the manufacturing of THC-O from cannabis plants to the production of heroin from morphine. An equal comparison can be found in the process of manufacturing aspirin by acetylating salicylic acid (an organic compound that is a principal metabolite of aspirin, salicylic acid is sourced from the willow tree). In other words, THC-O is merely one of many compounds that synthesize the effects and benefits of natural medicines and curatives.

Ironically, the DEA quickly lost interest in THC-O due to their opinion that its natural counterpart, Delta 9 THC, was already so widely available that there was no viable market for synthesized versions of that compound.

Returning full circle back to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, by deriving THC-O from Delta 8 THC (O-acetyl-Δ8-THC), which is manufactured from legal hemp plant materials, it is safely and legally nestled beneath the ever-widening umbrella of that Federal law. While THC-O can also be derived from Delta 9 THC (O-acetyl-Δ9-THC), the legal market for that derivation is much slimmer and interstate commerce is impossible. Consequently, you can expect that almost every THC-O product you encounter will be derived from Delta 8 THC unless it specifically states otherwise. It should be noted that, just as Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC contain different potencies (with Delta 9 considered a more potent compound), the THC-O derived from Delta 8 THC will have less potency than THC-O-acetate derived from Delta 9 THC.

Of course, there will be a minority of naysayers who will cry foul over the introduction of THC-O but likely the most effective action they can take is to personally choose not to consume this new compound while attempting to create propaganda to scare others away from it. Fortunately, in today’s better-informed society, propagandized scare tactics are becoming too tattered and transparent to gain much traction, so personal prohibition is likely all they can really accomplish.

Consuming THC-O

Due to findings in recent research, we advise against vaping or smoking THC-O, see “Smoke/Vape Consumption” below.

In addition to delivering more potency, THC-O is also easier to work with than Delta 8 THC. For instance, our popular Delta 8 THC Distillate requires heating well above room temperature in order to easily express it from the syringe. On the other hand, THC-O in a distillate form flows readily from a syringe at normal room temperatures, making it easier to prepare and consume.

Other THC-O forms you may encounter might include edibles, tinctures, and CBD hemp plants treated with THC-O distillate. Each form has its own bioavailability rate, meaning the speed and efficiency with which the compound is delivered to the bloodstream. Smoking or vaping ranks high, potentially delivering more cannabinoids to the bloodstream faster than other consumption methods. 

Tinctures also have a relatively good bioavailability rate while edibles usually rank lowest in bioavailability rates. This is because, even though both tinctures and edibles enter the mouth, tinctures are placed under the tongue and get absorbed by the mucous membrane while edibles (both food and beverage) must navigate the digestive system (filled with strong acids) before reaching the bloodstream. Edible products also take longer to feel but typically last longer once the effects hit.

Because of the various effects experienced from the different forms, many consumers practice a variety of methods that they found worked best for them. Then there are those ultimate enthusiasts who enjoy every consumption method equally. 

Regardless of the chosen consumption method, most people are seeking particular effects, so let’s dive deeper into the complexity of THC-O consumption and the resulting effects.

THC-O Effect Levels

As already noted, this compound has the potential of delivering much stronger effects than even Delta 9 THC. Some consumers claim psychedelic experiences after consumption while others describe a peaceful or spiritual sense about them. 

In all cases, unlike Delta 8 THC or Delta 9 THC, the effects can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour before they become noticeable. Also unlike Delta 8 THC or Delta 9 THC, consuming larger quantities of THC-O in one session does not intensify psychotropic effects but can instead transcend the individual into a psychedelic state.

Consequently, THC-O consumption can and should be divided into three distinct divisions or levels:

  • Sub-Perceptual Effects – this involves consuming amounts too small to produce noticeable psychotropic effects (microdosing); it intends to produce wellness benefits without accompanying psychotropic effects
  • Psychoactive Effects – this middle-of-the-road state is quite familiar to Delta 8- and Delta 9- THC consumers, as the effects are mainly psychotropic
  • Psychedelic Effects – those curious about what lies beyond psychoactive effects can enter the psychedelic realm by consuming larger quantities

As with any new cannabinoid, first-time consumers should begin with minimal amounts (preferably at the sub-perceptual level). Even those adventurous types anxious to experience psychedelic effects are strongly urged to start low and slow. After all, you have plenty of time ahead of you and we always feel that by starting beneath your desired or anticipated threshold, fewer surprises await you as you work your way up to your ideal consumption level. It is also more likely that you don’t accidentally surpass your ideal threshold if you step up your consumption level in small increments with each new session.

There are four popular methods for consuming THC-O: oral, sublingual, smoking, and vaping. Each method differs in its bioavailability rate, which means different dosages are recommended depending on how it is consumed.

We offer you a summary of recommended dosages to achieve one of the three effects described above. Please note that these recommended dosages are anecdotal in nature (i.e., not backed by scientific tests) but represent logical outcomes for most consumers. We also deliberately selected the most conservative dosage estimates for each effect level; more experienced consumers may wish to increase those minimum dosage recommendations.

Oral Consumption

This results in the lowest bioavailability rate since the cannabinoids must navigate highly acidic acids in the digestive system before reaching the bloodstream. Consequently, this method of consumption typically requires a higher quantity of cannabinoids to enjoy the same experience realized from more efficient methods.

Depending upon the state you desire, the following dosages are recommended for oral consumption:

  • Sub-Perceptual Effects – consume 3mg or less
  • Psychoactive Effects – consume between 3mg and 10mg
  • Psychedelic Effects – consume more than 10mg

Sublingual Consumption

Because sublingual consumption involves placing a tincture under your tongue, most of it gets absorbed by the mucous membranes, avoiding the treacherous path of the digestive system. Consequently, you can expect a higher bioavailability by using the sublingual method versus oral consumption.

Depending upon the state you desire, the following dosages are recommended for sublingual consumption:

  • Sub-Perceptual Effects – consume 2mg or less
  • Psychoactive Effects – consume between 2mg and 7mg
  • Psychedelic Effects – consume more than 7mg

Smoke/Vape Consumption

THC-O, an acetate form of delta 9 THC or delta 8 THC, is produced by chemically transforming CBD. When exposed to significant heat, as in the case of vaping, THC-O may degrade thermally, leading to the formation of ketene, a hazardous lung toxicant.

While it remains uncertain whether the quantity of ketene produced by a vaping cartridge is immediately dangerous, there’s a plausible risk. Cumulative minor exposures could also lead to lung damage over time. Given this information, we strongly advise against vaping or smoking THC-O or any other acetate form of a cannabinoid.

Please note that THC-O products such as gummies and tinctures do not present the same health risks, as they do not involve the application of heat.

It should be again emphasized that these recommendations represent general ranges. Effects can and do vary between consumers. We always recommend experiencing psychotropic effects prior to taking dosages intended for psychedelic effects.

Please start low and go slow with THC-O!

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