US researchers have conducted a survey of more than 500 delta-8 THC users in 38 states, with around half reporting they consumed products containing the cannabinoid for medical reasons.
Common conditions cited were anxiety/panic attacks, chronic pain, depression/bipolar disorder, and stress, with most respondents consuming delta-8 through concentrates eaten as edibles and tinctures or smoked by vaping.
Almost one-third said they used it exclusively for medicinal, as opposed to recreational, purposes.
Writing in The Conversation, the researchers — from Buffalo and Michigan Universities — said participants thought delta-8 had less intense effects compared with [delta-9] THC, but experiences differed.
They added: “Compared with [delta-9] THC, delta-8 appears to provide similar levels of relaxation and pain relief. While it seems to cause slightly lower levels of euphoria, it also seems to produce fewer cognitive distortions such as an altered sense of time, short-term memory issues and difficulty concentrating.
“Participants were also much less likely to experience distressing mental states such as anxiety and paranoia. Many participants remarked how they could use delta-8 and still be productive, whereas they tended to use [delta-9] THC products recreationally, given its more potent, mind-altering effects.”
According to the research, most participants reduced or stopped using pharmaceutical drugs, as well as delta-9 products, once they started using delta-8 to treat their conditions.
They considered it superior to pharmaceutical drugs in terms of adverse side effects, addictiveness, withdrawal symptoms, effectiveness, safety, availability and cost.
Despite this, participants were not confident their doctor could integrate medicinal cannabis into their treatment plan, meaning many had not disclosed their delta-8 use to their medical professional.
The research team called for more research — including double-blind randomised controlled trials — to explore delta-8’s treatment potential for specific conditions, acknowledging the possibility of a placebo effect on their findings.
They also want to see better education for healthcare providers on cannabis and its derivatives.
“There continues to be a disconnect between those who use cannabis to self-medicate and the mainstream healthcare system,” they added.
In September last year, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued warnings about delta-8 after a spate of hospitalisations, and some states have banned its sale over safety concerns.
However, the researchers insisted: “Criminalising substances with high consumer demand like delta-8 THC can create a black market and produce even more concerns for consumer safety, as there’s no mechanism for the regulation and protection of consumers.”
In October, reports of delta-8 being prescribed to patients in Australia prompted industry bodies to warn members about the potential risks associated with the cannabinoid and to raise their concerns with regulators.
And this week, Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia issued a position paper to members on delta-8 in a bid to clear up confusion about the medicine, ensure accurate labelling, and avoid it being prescribed in error.