Following federal legislation in 2018 that legalized hemp and its derivatives, enterprising manufacturers began producing consumable CBD products and then began experimenting with other lesser-known cannabinoids.
The most popular of these minor cannabinoids have been the delta 8 THC and delta 10 THC variants of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), both of which produce similar psychoactive effects to the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana, delta 9 THC. All occur naturally in both varieties of the cannabis plant (hemp and marijuana).
In this article, we’ll look at common THC variants (and the mysterious delta 11 THC) and compare them for strength, benefits, side effects, and their likelihood of triggering a drug test.
The differences between delta 8, delta 9, delta 10 and delta 11 THC
All of the cannabinoids discussed in this article are chemical variants of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They differ slightly in their molecular structure.
THC is a chemical compound that interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the body to create a variety of effects on the brain and body. When THC binds to receptors in the brain and central nervous system, it creates a mild euphoria and affects our perceptions of space and time in a (usually) pleasurable way. This is what high cannabis users are looking for.
Different variants of THC can produce stronger or weaker effects, but all deltas create a combination of euphoria, heightened sensory perception, relaxation, altered perception of time and space, and often laughter. They can also produce negative effects, especially when used in excess. Most THC users are familiar with the anxiety and paranoia that can be caused by abuse.
We tend to compare hemp-derived cannabinoids to delta 9 THC because delta 9 has been known and used for centuries and its effects are well known. But comparing, say, delta 10 to delta 8 is a more complicated undertaking, because finding products with equal levels of the two cannabinoids (and no other cannabinoids mixed in) isn’t easy. Even the presence of CBD in the mix could change the experience (CBD appears to moderate the effects of delta 9 and could do the same for delta 8 or 10).
How THC is produced: delta 9 versus delta 8 and delta 10
The most obvious difference between delta 9 THC and other deltas is their source. Delta 9 is found in high concentrations in the marijuana plant, up to 30%, high enough that smoking or vaping the flowers (buds) of the plant produces a strong psychoactive effect. When extracted, the resulting oil is a highly concentrated THC that can be vaporized or used to make edibles.
Delta 8 and 10 THC, on the other hand, are found naturally in marijuana and hemp only in very small quantities. To produce commercial delta 8 or delta 10 products, legal hemp-derived CBD is treated with thermal or chemical catalysts to convert it into the other cannabinoids. The same goes for the newly marketed delta 11 THC and other popular cannabinoids closely related to THC, such as HHC and THCP. Cannabinoids that do not occur naturally in the hemp plant (such as THC-O) cannot be legally produced from hemp-derived CBD, although it is possible to do so.
Which THC gives you the best highdelta 8, 9, 10 (or delta 11)?
There isn’t much to argue about which THC variant is the strongest. Of the common THCs in this discussion, marijuana-derived delta 9 THC is the winner for sheer psychoactive strength.
Extensive consumer reporting indicates that, in a delta 8 versus delta 9 comparison, the delta 9 is the champion, producing a larger and longer-lasting high. But many users actually prefer the more subdued high produced by delta 8. In a 2022 study involving hundreds of people who used both delta 8 and delta 9, participants said delta 8 provided many of the same benefits. with fewer side effects.
While delta 8 THC is generally agreed to be about half as potent as delta 9, delta 10 THC is described by users as even milder than delta 8. It won’t necessarily affect everyone equally, but for the majority of users , delta 8 high is stronger than delta 10. However, there is not much research on delta 10.
This goes double for delta 11 THC, which recently appeared out of nowhere. The science on this cannabinoid is almost non-existent, and most of the few unscientific articles we found were written by vendors selling delta 11 products. Some appear to base their conclusions on a 1973 study of 11-hydroxy-delta- 9-THC given intravenously, which is not THC delta 11, but rather a metabolite of THC delta 9 (it’s what THC delta 9 turns into after being processed by your liver).
Going beyond the scope of our article briefly, the hemp-derived cannabinoid THCP binds 33 times more easily with the body’s CB1 receptors, making it possibly the strongest commercially available cannabinoid. However, this is a great possibly. There is no concrete evidence that enhanced receptor binding results in ultra-high potency.
Do Delta 8, 9, 10 and 11 THC have the same benefits and side effects?
Since all four delta variants have approximately the same effects on the user – euphoria, altered perception of time and space, etc. – should we assume they offer the same medical benefits and cause the same side effects? We probably shouldn’t.
Delta 9 THC has been extensively studied. Many benefits have been demonstrated, such as its ability to reduce pain and treat both nausea and lack of appetite. It can also treat insomnia and reduce stress in some people.
Delta 8 likely provides some of the same medical benefits, but the research is still in its early stages. Anecdotally, users report that delta 8 is useful for combating insomnia and anxiety. There is almost no science on delta 10 or delta 11 as far as user benefits are concerned. It’s possible that future research will uncover important medical benefits in these cannabinoids, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The known short-term side effects of all THC variants are similar: anxiety and paranoia, dry mouth, dry and red eyes, hunger, short-term memory loss, and insomnia. Further side effects caused by hemp-derived cannabinoids, or their processing, could still be discovered.
Anxiety and paranoia are common side effects of excessive delta 9 THC consumption, but they can usually be avoided by starting slowly and increasing your intake in small steps. Users report that delta 8 and delta 10 seem much less likely to cause anxiety and paranoia than delta 9.
Whether THC causes more serious side effects, such as serious psychological conditions or heart disease, is up for debate. We advise readers, if they choose to delve into the medical issues surrounding marijuana use, to carefully review the sources of information they consume. Despite legalization in dozens of states, the moral panic over THC use has never really ended.
Which delta variants are the worst for passing drug tests?
When delta 9 THC is consumed, it is metabolized in the liver and converted to 11-hydroxy-delta-9-THC (11-HO-THC) and then to 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH), which is the metabolite sought by most urine tests. Other types of tests (blood, hair) can also detect 11-HO-THC or other minor metabolites.
It is assumed that standard THC tests will detect the same metabolites from delta 8 or delta 10 use as they do from delta 9 use. However, there is not enough research to compare them. We can’t say, for example, to choose delta 10 over delta 8 because it’s less likely to be detected; we just don’t know.
Most urine tests will not detect THC metabolites after a few days (although other tests are more sensitive). Because the body stores some THC byproducts in fat cells, and because everyone’s metabolism is different, it’s possible for THC metabolites to be detected in some people’s urine for weeks. (Hair tests can detect THC for up to 90 days.)
We cannot say that there is a better or worse THC variant to select if you are faced with potential drug tests. There is no reason to believe that the breakdown products of delta 8 and delta 10 are different or remain in the body for any length of time. If your job (or parole!) depends on clean drug testing, the best advice is to not use THC in any form.
Is delta 8, delta 9, delta 10 and delta 11 THC legal?
Delta 9 THC is a federally controlled substance and anyone who possesses or sells it is liable to prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the Justice Department has agreed not to prosecute the sale or possession of delta 9 THC or marijuana in the states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, as long as states strictly control access and follow certain other rules.
Since California became the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, 21 states (and the District of Columbia) have legalized recreational sales and nearly 40 have some form of medical cannabis program.
As defined in the 2018 Farm Bill, any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% delta 9 THC is considered marijuana, which is federally illegal. But if the plant contains less than 0.3% delta 9, it is termed hemp and is legal to grow and sell. Hemp derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids are also legal, as long as they exist naturally in the hemp plant.
While federally legal, some states have enacted steps to specifically limit or ban sales of delta 8 THC or all hemp-derived cannabinoids (except CBD). Check with your state to be sure.
Where can I find different variations of THC?
Delta 9 THC is federally illegal, but can be legally purchased by adults 21 and older in many states through licensed dispensaries. Rules vary from state to state, but some states also allow users to grow their own marijuana, as long as they don’t sell it.
Delta 9 is sold as flower (marijuana), vape carts, waxy dabbing concentrates, oral tinctures, gummies, and other edibles and beverages. Laws governing which specific delta 9 products are legal vary from state to state.
All US states, even those with legal marijuana, also have large illegal cannabis markets, and both marijuana and delta 9 concentrates and flower oils are widely available across the country. The penalties for selling and possessing marijuana without a license vary by state. Black market products are almost never tested for dangerous components.
In states where they are legal, delta 8 and 10 products are widely sold in vape shops, head shops, convenience stores and gas stations. Delta 8 and delta 10 manufacturers often sell direct to online customers, as do some resellers. This is often a more reliable way to view test results for products.
You can find delta 10 and delta 8 vape carts, disposable vaporizers, dabbing concentrates, oral tinctures, gummies, and other edibles. There is also delta 8 flower, which is high quality hemp buds coated or infused with delta 8 THC.
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