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THC-O vs THC-P: Which is better, which is stronger, and how do they feel?

We’re taking a closer look at THC-O vs THC-P, comparing the two compounds in terms of effects, potency, safety, and legality, to help you decide which of these two psychoactive cannabinoids might suit you better.
Staff editor
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A world of cannabinoids

It’s fair to say that the legal highs scene has massively evolved in the last five years with an explosion of hemp-derived cannabinoids, following the legalization of hemp in 2018. Countless novel cannabinoids now compete for your attention with promises to get you higher than ever, but it can be difficult to keep track of them all when there are so many!

In this article, we’re going to be taking a closer look at THC-O vs THC-P, comparing the two compounds in terms of effects, potency, safety, and legality, to help you decide which of these two psychoactive cannabinoids might suit you better.

THC-O vs THC-P: Summary

Both THC-O and THC-P are commonly used for recreation, relaxation, pain-relief, and sleep, but they’re actually two very different compounds. Which one will be best for you will depend on what you’re looking to get out of the experience.

Here’s an overview of the main differences between THC-O and THC-P (keep reading for more detail below).

Compound typeSynthetic cannabinoidNaturally-occurring cannabinoid
Active/inactiveBecomes active once metabolized (pro-drug)Already active on entering the body
PotencyMarketing says 3X more potent than THC Experience says effects are different and difficult to compareMarketing says 33X more potent than THC Research says 2X more potent
EffectsExperience is more lucid with psychedelic effects at higher dosesTHC-like effects
ProductsEasy to find THC-O (only) productsTHC-P is usually blended with other cannabinoids
SafetyAs an acetate ester, it may be harmful when vaped or smokedResearch is lacking but  it’s widely assumed to be as safe as THC
LegalityDEA has announced that they consider THC-O to be a Schedule I substanceFederally legal under the Hemp Farming Act

THC-O vs THC-P in more detail

THC-O is short for THC-O-acetate. THC-O is an acetate ester of THC. It exerts influence on our body’s endocannabinoid system but is not found naturally in hemp or cannabis plants, thereby classifying it as a synthetic cannabinoid.

Some people argue that THC-O is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid because it’s created from natural cannabinoids.

THC-O is created through a process of acetylation, using Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC as a starting point, through which an extra acetate group of atoms is created in the chemical structure. This makes it a pro-drug, meaning it has to be metabolized before it becomes active.

During the metabolic process the acetate group disperses allowing the THC to bind to receptors in their normal fashion. It’s thought that the differences in psychoactive effects and potency (to THC) are caused by this pro-drug delivery method which offers it higher bioavailability.

THC-P is short for tetrahydrocannabiphorol. It is one of over 140 (and counting) naturally-occurring phytocannabinoids that have been identified and isolated from hemp and cannabis plants. However, THC-P was only identified and isolated very recently (in 2019), so scientific research into this minor cannabinoid is scarce.

THC-P is a minor cannabinoid, only occurring in the plant in very small amounts. This makes it highly likely that THC-P products contain a semi-synthetic version of this compound created from Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC.

If you look at the molecular structure of THC-P, it is similar to Delta 9 THC, but features a longer seven-carbon sidechain compared to Delta 9 THC’s five-carbon sidechain. This longer sidechain offers THC-P a 33-fold greater binding affinity for the cannabinoid receptors in our brain, meaning it also has a greater potential to intoxicate us.

Is THC-P stronger than THC-O?

**The final potency of THC-O or THC-P largely depends on which form of THC was used to create it.**

If we’re to look at the marketing hype surrounding THC-P vs O, THC-O is said to be three times more potent that Delta 9 THC and THC-P is said to be around 33 times stronger.

But, in actual fact, this just isn’t true. Sorry, I know you’re probably looking for a straight answer here, but there isn’t one!

Many users have reported that THC-O feels around two to three times stronger than regular THC but, in my experience, the high is very different which makes it more difficult to quantify. For example, I’ve taken 25 mg THC-O gummies in the past and have still been able to function in ways that just wouldn’t be possible for me on 25 mg of Delta 9 THC (more on this in the effects, later).

The marketed potency of THC-P is just that, marketing. Although research has found that THC-P is able to bind 33X more efficiently with CB1 receptors in our brain, this research was conducted in petri dishes and the research team found very different results when it came to testing this compound in vivo (in life).

This research did conclude that THC-P is stronger than THC, just not 33X stronger. The team found that THC-P was able to exert THC-like effects in mice at around half the dose of regular (Delta 9) THC.

However, the potency of THC-P is still hotly debated, with many experienced users claiming it to be around 5-10 times as strong as THC.

The problem is, experience and anecdotal evidence is not particularly helpful because there aren’t any THC-P (only) products on the market at the moment. If you buy a vape cart or gummy with THC-P in it, it’s always accompanied by much larger amounts of CBD, Delta 8 THC, or other cannabinoids, so it’s almost impossible to tell what’s doing what.

On top of this, I’ve seen carts labeled as 100% THC-P that only contain around 2% THC-P, so you really need to shop around before selecting a product that will actually offer decent THC-P effects.

In my personal experience, I would say that THC-P elicits more potent effects than THC-O when it comes to THC-like effects. However, THC-O is able to provide more psychedelic effects, especially at higher doses.

What is the strongest THC variant?

As a seven-carbon chain THC, THC-P is the strongest THC variant that has officially been identified and isolated. However, THCjd is an eight-carbon chain THC, which (theoretically-speaking) would potentially make THCjd a stronger variant.

THCjd has been appearing in various products for a while now, but scientific evidence supporting its official existence is lacking.

It’s worth mentioning that THC potency alone doesn’t necessarily dictate the overall quality or effects of a cannabis strain or product. The presence of other cannabinoids and compounds (such as CBD and various terpenes) can also influence the overall experience and therapeutic potential.

THC-P vs THC-O effects

You can read more about the effects of THC-P and the effects of THC-O on the links.

But, in short, the THC-O experience is more lucid and spiritual than any other THC experience I’ve had. The effects take longer to kick in and it can still take a while to realize that you’re high because it doesn’t come with the usual feeling of intoxication caused by most other THC variants.

In fact, it’s nicknamed the “spiritual cannabinoid” due to its unique effects.

The effects of THC-P are a lot more similar to Delta 9 THC, just a lot stronger. THC-P has more euphoric effects, as well as a more noticeable body buzz than THC-O. You’ll also notice the effects more immediately, not just because it works faster, but also because you feel physically intoxicated.

Although the effects of all forms of THC can be described as psychedelic (you won’t hallucinate but you may experience a feeling of expanded consciousness), THC-O definitely takes this to the next level.

Which is safer: THC-P or THC-O?

In all honesty, both of these cannabinoids are lacking the scientific research needed to accurately comment on their safety. However, since THC-P is a natural cannabinoid, it may be assumed to have a similar safety profile to Delta 9 THC, with only mild and infrequent side effects.

As an acetate ester, there is a lot more concern surrounding the safety of THC-O, when it comes to vaping products in particular.

You may have heard of the dangers of vaping vitamin-E-acetate and, if so, the same dangers exist for THC-O-acetate. Although acetates regularly appear in products that are deemed fit for human consumption, the problem comes when acetate is heated (which, of course, it will be when it’s vaped or smoked). 

Evidence suggests that heating THC-O could result in the production of ketene, a suspected cause of severe lung injury.

For this reason, if you’re interested in trying THC-O, it may be wise to opt for edibles over inhalables.

THC-P vs THC-O legality

Another important difference between THC-P and THC-O is their legality. As a naturally-occurring cannabinoid, THC-P falls under the definition of hemp and is legal at the federal level according to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018.

THC-O, on the other hand, cannot be found naturally in the hemp plant. As a fully synthetic cannabinoid, the DEA released a statement in February 2023 stating that, because THC-O can’t be found in hemp, it doesn’t fall under the definition of hemp. In this statement, the DEA declared THC-O to be a schedule I substance.

Several companies are still selling THC-O products, so (for now at least) it appears that this isn’t being enforced, but you should be aware of this if you’re planning on buying some and trying it for yourself.

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