Cannabis-derived products like delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC have flooded the US market – two immunologists explain medical benefits and potential risks

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Delta 8 THC, Delta 10 THC, and CBD or cannabidiol signs are everywhere these days—at gas stations, convenience stores, vape shops, and online.

Many people rightly wonder which of these compounds are legal, whether they are safe to consume, and which of their purported medicinal benefits stand up to scientific scrutiny.

The rapid spread of cannabis products makes it clear that the public needs to better understand what these compounds are derived from and what their true benefits and potential risks may be.

We are immunologists who have been studying the effects of marijuana cannabinoids on inflammation and cancer for more than two decades.

We see promising medical applications in these products. But we are also concerned about the fact that there are still many unknowns about its safety and psychoactive properties.

Analysis of the differences between marijuana and hemp

Cannabis sativa, the most common type of cannabis plant, contains more than 100 compounds called cannabinoids.

One of the most studied cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9-THC, which is psychoactive.

A psychoactive compound affects how the brain works, thereby altering mood, consciousness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Delta-9 THC is the main cannabinoid responsible for the high associated with marijuana. In contrast, CBD is not psychoactive.

Marijuana and hemp are two different varieties of the cannabis plant. In the US, federal regulations state that cannabis plants that contain more than 0.3% delta-9-THC should be classified as marijuana, while plants that contain less should be classified as hemp.

Marijuana grown today is high in delta-9-THC — from 10% to 30% — while hemp plants contain 5% to 15% CBD.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of CBD extracted from the cannabis plant to treat epilepsy.

In addition to being a source of CBD, hemp plants can be used commercially to develop a variety of other products such as textiles, paper, medicines, food, pet feed, biofuels, biodegradable plastics, and building materials.

When Congress passed the Farm Improvement Act in 2018, dubbed the Farm Bill, it recognized the potential broad uses of hemp and removed hemp from the controlled substance category. This made the cultivation of hemp legal.

As hemp-derived CBD saturated the market following the passage of the Farm Bill, CBD manufacturers began using their technical prowess to derive other forms of cannabinoids from CBD.

This led to the creation of delta 8 and delta 10 THC.

The chemical difference between delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC is the position of a double bond in the chain of carbon atoms that they structurally share.

Delta-8 has this double bond on the eighth carbon of the chain, Delta-9 on the ninth carbon, and Delta-10 on the tenth carbon.

These slight differences cause them to exert different psychoactive effects.

The properties of Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC was one of the first cannabinoid forms to be isolated from the cannabis plant in 1964.

Delta-9-THC’s powerful psychoactive property stems from its ability to activate specific cannabinoid receptors, called CB1, in the brain.

The CB1 receptor is like a lock that can only be opened by a specific key – in this case delta-9-THC – which allows the latter to affect specific cellular functions.

Delta-9 THC mimics the cannabinoids called endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce.

Because delta-9-THC mimics the effects of endocannabinoids, it also affects the same brain functions that they regulate, such as appetite, learning, memory, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep, mood, body temperature, and immune responses.

The FDA approved Delta-9-THC in 1985 to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and in 1992 to stimulate appetite in HIV/AIDS patients.

The National Academy of Sciences has reported that cannabis is effective in relieving chronic pain in adults and improving muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease.

This report also suggested that cannabis may improve sleep outcomes and fibromyalgia, a condition in which patients complain of fatigue and pain throughout the body.

In fact, a combination of delta-9 THC and CBD has been used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. This drug called Sativex is approved in many countries but not yet in the US

Delta-9-THC can also activate another type of cannabinoid receptor called CB2, which is primarily expressed on immune cells.

Studies from our lab have shown that Delta-9-THC can suppress inflammation by activating CB2.

This makes it highly effective in treating autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and colitis, as well as pneumonia caused by bacterial toxins.

However, delta-9-THC has not been approved by the FDA for conditions such as pain, sleep, insomnia, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases.

This has prompted people to self-medicate for conditions for which there are currently no effective pharmacological treatments.

Comparison of the chemical properties of cannabinoids

Delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC are less psychoactive than delta-9-THC, but still interact with key receptors that could make them more clinically useful than delta-9-THC, the compound responsible for the marijuana-associated ” High” is responsible.

Delta-8 THC, a chemical cousin of Delta-9

Delta-8 THC is found in very small amounts in the cannabis plant. Widespread in the US, delta-8-THC is a derivative of hemp CBD.

Delta-8-THC binds less tightly to CB1 receptors than delta-9-THC, making it less psychoactive than delta-9-THC.

People looking for delta-8 THC for medicinal benefits seem to prefer it over delta-9 THC because delta-8 THC doesn’t get them very high.

However, delta-8-THC binds to CB2 receptors with similar strength as delta-9-THC.

And since CB2 activation plays a crucial role in suppressing inflammation, delta-8-THC could potentially be preferable to delta-9-THC for treating inflammation as it is less psychoactive.

There are no published clinical studies to date on whether delta-8-THC can be used to treat clinical conditions such as chemotherapy-induced nausea or appetite stimulation in HIV/AIDS that are responsive to delta-9-THC.

However, animal studies from our laboratory have shown that delta-8-THC is also effective in treating multiple sclerosis.

The sale of delta-8 THC, particularly in states where marijuana is illegal, is very controversial.

Federal authorities consider all compounds isolated from marijuana or synthetic forms, similar to THC, to be Schedule I controlled substances, meaning they have no current accepted medical uses and significant potential for abuse.

However, hemp producers argue that delta-8-THC should be legal since it is derived from CBD isolated from legally grown hemp plants.

The emergence of Delta-10 THC

Delta-10 THC, another chemical cousin of Delta-9 and Delta-8, has recently hit the market.

Scientists don’t yet know much about this new cannabinoid. Delta-10 THC is also derived from hemp CBD.

People have anecdotally reported feeling euphoric and more focused after consuming delta-10 THC. Anecdotally, people who consume delta-10 THC say it causes less of a high than delta-8 THC.

And almost nothing is known about the medicinal properties of delta-10-THC. Still, it’s marketed in a similar fashion to the other more studied cannabinoids, with claims of a range of health benefits.

The future of cannabinoid derivatives

Research and clinical trials of marijuana or delta-9-THC for the treatment of many conditions have been hampered by their classification as Schedule 1 substances.

In addition, the psychoactive properties of marijuana and delta-9-THC produce side effects on brain functions; The high that comes with it makes some people nauseous or just hate the sensation. This limits their usefulness in treating clinical disorders.

In contrast, we think that Delta-8-THC and Delta-10-THC, as well as other potential cannabinoids that could be isolated from the cannabis plant or synthesized in the future, show great promise.

With their potent activity against the CB2 receptors and lower psychoactive properties, we believe they offer new therapeutic opportunities to treat a wide range of conditions.

Written by Prakash Nagarkatti. Mitzi Nagarkatti. The conversation.

If you are interested in cannabis, please read studies on what you need to know about cannabis and heart attack, and CBD from cannabis may help inhibit COVID-19 infection.

For more information about cannabis, check out recent studies that suggest medicinal cannabis may help reduce depression, and results show that this stuff in cannabis can protect the aging brain and treat Alzheimer’s.

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