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Delta-8 THC and Public Health Concerns

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By Melanie Padgett Powers, writer

Public health professionals are concerned that consumers don’t know about the risks of synthetic cannabis products.

A chemist and an epidemiologist who study cannabis at the federal level outlined how the drug works, its potential risks and reported adverse events delta 8 vape juice during the APHL Annual Conference May 18 session. In Cleveland, OH, Delta-8 THC and Why Public Health should be concerned.

On September 14, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network health advisory to alert public health departments and laboratories to the increased availability of cannabis products with the potential for poisonings.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to five companies for marketing and selling drugs that are not approved. The FDA issued a consumer alert about the accidental ingestion of food products. The product packaging is similar to real brands of candy and cereals marketed to children.

What is delta-8 THC?

The cannabinoids delta-8 and delta-9 are found in cannabis. Any part of the plant with more than 3% delta-9 is considered marijuana; less than that, it is considered hemp. A chemist at the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said that Delta-8 accounts for less than 1% of the plant. According to the CDC, Delta-8 is between 50 and 75% as psychoactive as Delta-9.

Delta-8 and Delta-9 can be created using a solvent, acid, or heat. Many of the concerns come from this area.

There are more Delta-8 products in the market. Makers of these products are creating higher quantities of the drug than it can be found naturally. The legality can be difficult to understand. Legal or not, there are several risks to consuming products that have not been approved by the FDA. Taylor said that they can be dangerous to children and animals.

The use of cannabis in the past cannot be relied on to establish safety because people have not been taking high levels of the drug in the past. Taylor said that this really has not come about before recently.

Delta-8 THC adverse events

Delta-8 products are likely made in unsanitary conditions. Makers often use harmful chemicals to create the higher concentrations of delta-8. They may add bleach to make the product look more clear, which consumers think means it is more pure.

She said that people are exposed to a lot of different chemicals and are consuming or inhaling them. They are likely getting other cannabinoids as well as the delta-8 cannabinoid.

There were 104 adverse event reports from December 1, 2020 to February 29, 2022. 8% of them were children. Adverse events included loss of consciousness.

The national poison control centers received notices of 2,362 exposures, of which 42% were for children younger than 18. Forty percent of the total was accidental.

More than 70% of all US non-federal EDs participate in the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, which collects data from emergency departments. The first suspected ED visit was in September 2020. There were 48 reported visits by July 2021.

According to Brooke Hoots, PhD, the CDC Division of Overdose Prevention leads the Cannabis Strategy Unit and she said that the data is likely to be underestimated.

Hoots said that public health professionals are concerned about an outbreak of disease similar to the e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury, or EVALI, because of the chemical and ingestion.

I’m surprised we haven’t seen this already. She said that there are unclear effects of consuming or inhaling these chemicals and that vapes are a popular mode of use of the drug.

Hoots said that there are other novel cannabinoid coming to market. Other cannabinoids include delta-9 THC, which is not naturally occurring and is considered a lot more psychoactive than the other cannabinoids. One of the cannabinoids derived from cannabidiol is called HHC, which is said to produce more of a high.

The market is just burgeoning with these isomers and analogs.

Melanie Powers is a writer and editor who focuses on health care.

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