What Is THC-O?
After the legalization of hemp in 2018, its enthusiasts sought to go beyond CBD.
Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, has been studied widely for a boatload of medicinal and wellness benefits, and extensive research has backed up its near-magical potency.
But the hemp plant contains hundreds of other beneficial cannabinoids, each with unique benefits and effects. So why stop at CBD when hemp has so much more to offer legally?
When CBD saturated the market and manufacturers started itching for the next big thing, delta-8 THC hit the shelves. Now, delta-10 THC is here.
And if that’s not already amazing, THCO, almost out of nowhere, is now gaining a lot of attention.
THC-O acetate, better referred to as just THCO, is touted to be 3 times stronger and 300% more psychoactive than delta-9 THC.
But, what exactly is THCO, and does it live up to this hype, or is it just smoke and mirrors?
What Is THC-O?
Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate, shortened as THC-O acetate, THC-O, or ATHC, is a tremendously psychoactive synthetic analog of THC.
This means that the cannabinoid is man-made and does not occur naturally in cannabis plants.
Rather, the cannabinoid is synthesized from other THC forms like delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC, or THCA.
It is made through a process known as acetylation, which involves replacing THCs hydrogen group with an acetyl group to make a THCO acetate.
Hence, THC-O is best described as an acetylated form of THC.
THCO delivers a similar high to other forms of THC, only way more psychedelic. When consumed at low doses, its high is virtually similar to delta-9 THC. Moderate doses deliver a mildly psychedelic experience in that it creates an altered headspace and more intense visuals. High doses are relatively incapacitating, with users reporting a highly spiritual trip.
What Makes THC-O So Much Stronger Than Regular THC?
THCO is still very new on the market. This means that its research is still early in its infancy, and information about cannabinoids is very limited.
However, anecdotal reports have confirmed that it delivers extremely strong effects than your regular delta-9 THC.
The first thing you should note is that THC-O is a prodrug. This means that it remains inactive until after it is metabolized by the liver. During metabolism, it loses the acetate (-O) group to be converted into THC. Okay, how then is this THC any stronger than the regular THC?
Theoretically speaking, the potency of THC-O is greatly influenced by its bioavailability. In its acetylated form, THC is way more bioavailable than in its regular form. This means that acetylated THC is easily absorbed and circulated in the bloodstream and brain.
Additionally, THC-O’s unique functional group (-O) enables the molecules to cross the lipid barriers more rapidly into the digestive system and brain.
Once THCO loses the acetate(-O) group, it is able to interact with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as usual and deliver similar effects to delta-9 THC, but 3 times more potent.
How Long Does It Take For THC-O To Deliver Its Effects?
As noted above, THCO is a prodrug and cannot deliver its effects until after the liver has metabolized it. As such, it delivers a delayed onset of effects.
For instance, when you consume delta-9 THC orally, you can expect to feel its effects after just about 15-30 minutes. Comparably, the effects of THC-O can take up to 60 minutes to kick in.
Smoking delta-9 THC delivers effects almost immediately. On the flip side, the effects of smoking THC-O can be felt after about 20 minutes.
Although it delivers a delayed onset of effects, they are more potent and offer a psychedelic experience, almost similar to the intoxication of shrooms. Hence, its fanatics have nicknamed it ‘the spiritual cannabinoid.’
As soon as THC-O effects begin to appear, they come on incredibly fast, and the peak will be felt in about 20 minutes. Therefore, beginners are strongly advised to be patient and wait at least two hours after consuming the first THCO dose for the effects to kick in.
Where Can I Buy THC-O?
Currently, only countable brands are selling THC-O. While it’s hard to find it on the market right now, you are encouraged to stick to THCO gummies or tinctures and keep off the vape cartridges.
There is a great concern over the safety profile of THCO vapes, with many consumers reporting a delayed onset of coughs and possible cases of lung congestion.
According to some experts, the health risks associated with THCO vapes boil down to the acetate chemical group. They compare this risk with that of vitamin E acetate, an additive in cheap vape cartridges that has strongly been linked to serious lung injuries and conditions like lipoid pneumonia.
Is THC-O A Naturally Occurring Cannabinoid
No. THC-O is man-made. Meaning that it doesn’t occur in nature, and you cannot possibly source it from cannabis plants like you do delta-9 THC.
However, it is a synthetic, classical cannabinoid. That’s because it possesses the same chemical structure as naturally occurring cannabinoids like delta-9 THC. The only difference is that natural cannabinoids do not contain the functional acetate group.
The process of synthesizing THCO is innately dangerous and volatile. You’re strongly advised against trying it at home! Because besides getting in trouble with the law, you, my friend, will blow yourself up, and if you survive that, you’re highly likely to poison yourself on an impure end product!
The process involves extracting delta-8 THC from hemp-derived CBD and adding acetate anhydride (an extremely flammable, damaging, and potentially explosive chemical) to the delta-8 molecules to convert them into THCO acetate.
The end product, THC-O acetate, possesses a similar ABC-tricyclic structure as benzopyran moiety. This structure is what defines all classical cannabinoids, including CBD, CBC, delta-9 THC, and others.
In contrast, nonclassical cannabinoids like naphthoylindoles and phenyl-acetyl indoles possess an entirely different chemical structure from naturally occurring cannabinoids. Generally, they are considered cannabinoids because they interact with the endocannabinoid receptors in our ECS to deliver cannabinoid-like effects. However, unlike classical cannabinoids, these compounds have been associated with severe health risks and even death.
Is THC-O Legal?
Currently, THC-O is legal in the US under the 2018 farm bill. But it is prohibited in places like the UK and New Zealand.
However, its opponents in the US argue that THCO would be considered analogous to delta-9 THC and, therefore, a schedule 1 drug under the 1986 Federal Analogue Act (FAA). This act serves to ban all analogs of any existing schedule 1 substance like delta-9 THC.
THC-O may be considered illegal in the US and most of Europe under the FAA. Although it’s hard to find this cannabinoid in Canada, no act explicitly lists it as a prohibited substance, and none prohibits chemical analogs either.
Is THC-O Safe?
The safety profile of THCO remains unclear. Until today, there are no reported cases of overdose on this cannabinoid. So far, it’s clear that THC-O is not associated with the adverse risks and side effects of synthetic nonclassical cannabinoids such as K2 and Spice.
Synthetic versions of THC began to be manufactured in the early 2000s. They became wildly popular as a legal way to get high. Though marketed as safe, these compounds were linked to health risks like severe lung injuries and seizures, depression, heart attacks, and even death!
THC-O is seen to have a similar safety profile to delta-9 and delta-8 THC. But please note there are major concerns for smoking, vaping, and dabbing it.
According to some experts, the unique acetate (-O) group in THCO may have the same health risks as the vitamin E acetate once used as an additive in some e-cigarettes and vape pens. This additive is linked to severe lung injuries and death.
Extensive research is required to establish the true safety profile of THC-O.
What Is The Dose Of THC-O?
Currently, no official studies have been done to determine the optimal THC-O dose. Generally, THC-O is at least three times as strong as delta-9 THC, which means that an optimal dose should be about a third of what you consume using delta-9 THC.
The minimum dose of THC-O required to trigger psychoactive effects is approximately 2mg when taken orally and about 0.5mg when inhaled. Any amount beyond this dose will deliver psychoactive effects.
If you’re looking to experience significant psychoactive effects, you should consider smoking a THC-O dose of between 1-5mg and an oral dose of between 3-10mg.
A dose of about 15mg will give you a psychedelic experience. But take caution not to consume such high doses unless you’re an experienced THCO user.
When consuming any new cannabinoid, the best thing to do is start with minimal doses and gradually work your way up until you find a dose that delivers your desired effects.
The Benefits Of Taking THC-O
Formal research into the potential health and wellness benefits of THC-O is missing. Anecdotally speaking, THCO delivers the same benefits as delta-9 THC, only way more potent.
Users have reported the following benefits:
- Relieves pain
- Helps with insomnia
- Alleviates anxiety
- Boosts appetite
The Side Effects Of THC-O
The side effects of THC-O are no surprise given its unmatched potency. Users have commonly reported the following side effects:
- Incapacitation at high doses
The Best Way To Consume THC-O
THC-O is available in as many forms as delta-9 THC products, including:
- THC-O Tinctures
Tinctures are perhaps the best way to consume THC-O. Like smoking, they deliver a fast onset of highly potent effects but without the health risks associated with vaping/smoking. Tinctures are an efficient and safe way to experience the amazing benefits of THCO.
- THC-O gummies
Gummies are highly preferred due to their palatable flavors and enticing aromas. They come in a pre-measured dose, providing users with a convenient and accurate way to introduce THC-O into their daily routine. They are safe and straightforward to consume.
- THC-O Distillate
THC-O distillates are super rare. Unlike your regular THC dabs, THCO distillates are much thicker, black, and oily. While it’s not very aesthetically pleasing, it’s also pretty difficult to handle, given its oily and fluid-like nature.
- THC-O Vape Cartridges
The safety of vaping THC-O is still a very big concern. The acetate group in the compound is believed to cause severe lung damages. Hence, you’re advised to approach this consumption method with great caution until THC-Os potential health risks are rigorously investigated.
Final Thoughts: What’s The Future of THC-O?
Contrary to popular belief, THC-O is not a new chemical. It was discovered many decades ago. In the late 1940s, the Edgewood Arsenal facility in Maryland tested it on dogs to determine if the military could use it to incapacitate rival soldiers.
However, THC-O products only recently hit the market. And its demand will likely continue surging, seeing as it offers highly potent effects compared to other THC forms. But given its blurred safety profile, the risks associated with its production, and the fact that it is largely unregulated, the future of THC-O is uncertain.