The idea of a cannabis product creating a sort of psychedelic experience is not a new one. There was a prevailing, fictional description back in the early part of the last century—encouraged by the 1936 film “Reefer Madness”—where people feared that was what all cannabis did. It freaked you out. Caused you to do unspeakable things. Run amok. Destroy property.
While the reality of how cannabis affects humans is now backed by real science, there are real studies today linking cannabis use to psychotic episodes which sound like a classic bad trip on a psychedelic, including feelings of deep paranoia and visual hallucinations.
It almost seems like cannabis developers want to tap into a more mind-bending experience for their consumers.
Psychedelics + THC
A cannabis company, CaaMTech, Inc, is even looking to develop a psychedelics-plus-cannabis line of products. According to a press release announcing the patent on the product, CaaMTech has shown that cannabinoids work synergistically with psychedelic tryptamines to produce their effects.
Researchers are warning that stronger strains of cannabis available at dispensaries now can create more head-buzzing psychedelic-like experiences that may be overwhelming for consumers. And there are new trendy cannabinoid concentrate products such as sugars and diamonds on the market that are some of the strongest “designer” cannabis products ever made. A sugar product can have 60-90 percent pure THC.
Now comes THC-O, or THC-O acetate, an unregulated hemp derivative synthesized from Delta 8 THC extractions, that is finding its way into CBD shops that also sell quasi-legal Delta 8 THC products. Researchers are saying that THC-O is three times more potent than Delta 8 THC, offering a trippy experience that is every bit as powerful as the experience offered by a magic mushroom.
THC-O is reportedly chemically almost identical to Delta 9 THC, which is the intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant. And its effects are very similar to Delta 9. But because it binds more tightly to the body’s cannabinoid receptors than the other THC forms, THC-O is more intoxicating than both Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC.
Many users describe THC-O as producing an almost psychedelic high, with borderline hallucinogenic effects.
The effects of THC-O are always delayed. It’s a so-called “prodrug,” which means that the THC-O you swallow or inhale isn’t pre-activated by heat like most THC (the process called decarboxylation). Instead, the effects of THC-O aren’t felt until it’s been fully processed through the body—just like THC edibles—which could lead to accidental higher dosing and thus, more psychedelic-like effects.
For now, merchants are enjoying a surge in sales of THC O products, available in many CBD stores selling Delta 8 THC products, but also online.
For example, some cannabis businesses calling themselves dispensaries in the Chicago area are now selling THC-O in pre-rolled joints, vape cartridges, edibles, and other forms.
Sales copy on one online store reported that, once THC-O kicks in after about an hour, “the effects are long-lasting, intensely immersive, and cerebral. Users have shared that it stimulates pleasant spiritual-type sensations.”
There has been little actual lab research on THC-O, and there are other concerns cropping up as its popularity grows. ACS Laboratory, a DEA-licensed laboratory that can test for a 22 different cannabinoids, has created a test for THC-O to help determine the level of chemicals in the product, especially the effects of acetic anhydride—a highly corrosive chemical which can burn skin and cause possible lung and eye damage—which is used to synthesize THC-O from THC Delta 8 (and Delta 9) extracts.
As the popularity of THC-O grows, lawmakers are taking notice. For example, South Dakota legislators just passed a bill regulating THC-O (HB 1292). But for the most part, THC-O is riding under the law enforcement radar.
Science is working to catch up on what THC-O really is, and what it really does. But for now, it looks like you can legally trip your way through the shadows of your mind with a cannabis-based product you get at your local CBD store. Enjoy? Or.. beware.