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THC-O 101: Hype or real deal?

THC-O is rumored to be up to 3x more potent than Delta 9 THC. But is this semi-synthetic compound really safe to consume and is the buzz worth it?
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Taking on Delta 9

Rumor has it that THC-O (pronounced “THC Oh”) is not only three times more potent than delta 9 THC, but it’s also said to be psychedelic. For someone who’s fairly THC sensitive, the potency sounds pretty terrifying, but psychedelic too…? Tell me more.

I started looking into the effects, benefits, and potential risks of THC-O, before going ahead and scoring some THC-O vape carts and gummies, so that me and a few friends could try it out for ourselves. 

In this article, I’m going to share my research and our experiences with you to help you decide whether THC-O is something you’d like to try too.

What is THC-O and where does it come from?

THC-O-acetate, to give this chemical compound it’s full name, is not a natural substance and therefore does not exist in the hemp plant or anywhere else in nature on its own. This made me have a lot of questions about how a typical THC-O product is made and the relative safety of a synthetic cannabinoid like this. Here’s what I found out.

What is THC-O?

THC-O is an acetate ester of THC rumored to be up to 3x more potent than Delta 9. It’s a semi-synthetic compound and although the THC-O created from D-9 THC is the most studied, THC-O is usually made from Delta 8 due to the fact it can be sold under a “hemp-derived” legal loophole.

How is THC-O made?

The process of making THC-O begins by converting CBD to Delta 8 through a process called isomerization. A compound called acetic anhydride is then added to the Delta 8 THC molecules and then after the THC is acetylated, the excess acetic anhydride is then removed via distillation. 

How strong is THC-O?

THC-O is said to be much stronger than Delta 9 THC, although how much stronger seems to be under debate. Some sources claim that THC-O is double the strength of regular THC, but others argue that it’s up to 3X stronger than regular THC. I, on the other hand, would say it’s weaker than Delta-9.

How long has THC-O been around?

THC-O only started appearing on our shelves in the last year or so but it’s actually been knocking around since 1949. The US Army was carrying out research to investigate its use as an incapacitating agent and found that the compound decreased dog’s muscle coordination twice as much as D9 THC.

THC-O effects

Some claim that THC-O is federally legal due to the fact that it’s hemp-derived, but (honestly) the legality of THC-O is up for debate. The 2018 Farm Bill did make all hemp derivatives legal, but it may be considered an analog of THC, which makes it illegal under the Federal Analog Act of 1986.

The Farm Bill made industrial hemp and ALL of its derivatives legal at the federal level, but the Federal Analog Act of 1986 clearly states that any substances that are chemically similar to a controlled chemical substance (like delta 9 THC) are automatically illegal also. So, although THC-O is considered a hemp derivative when it’s manufactured from delta 8, it’s similarity in its molecular structure to delta 9 THC may outlaw it by default.

Further to this, many states (19 and counting – March 2022) have already banned all forms of THC outright, so regardless of what this compound’s legal status is at the federal level, it may still be illegal to possess it in the state you live in. To see which states have already outlawed THC-O, check out the list provided in our article “What is Delta 8 THC and is it Legal?“, as the new state laws cover all novel THC cannabinoids.

For the time being, THC-O is being sold openly across large areas of the country, both in stores and online, with little interference from law enforcement, so many people are rushing to take advantage of this legal high while they can.

Is THCO-O safe?

The safety profile of THC-O is largely unknown at this time as there haven’t been any specific studies, but there’s also no data to suggest that it’s particularly dangerous. There have been no reports of overdose or deaths on it and it doesn’t appear to be addictive. 

However, the main safety concern doesn’t so much concern the compound itself, but instead the production process used to create it and the unregulated nature of the entire hemp market.

The manufacturing process of THC-O involves a whole host of acids, solvents, and reactants, and if the product is not properly washed then there is a danger that traces of these compounds could find their way into products.

For this reason, you need to be especially careful of who you’re buying THC-O from. Look for companies that comprehensively test their products. THC-O in particular needs special reagent testing, because standard residual solvent testing won’t find traces of the compounds needed to create THC-O.

Where vaping or smoking is concerned, there is also a potential concern that, as an acetate ester, THC-O could be harmful in the same way that vitamin-E acetate is. Vitamin E acetate produces ketones at vaping temperatures, which are highly toxic and can cause lung damage, even in very small amounts.

My THC-O experience

After all my research, I was still curious to try THC-O for myself and scored myself a THC-O cart, some THC-O cigarettes, and some THC-O gummies from several different brands. I’ll tell you right now that THC-O does not live up to its hype, but that’s not to say that I didn’t like it.

In my opinion, THC-O has been hyped up way too much and marketed all wrong. Let me tell you more…

Is THC-O stronger than Delta 9 THC?

I’ll address the potency issue right away by saying no, THC-O is not stronger than delta 9 THC. Websites that claim that THC-O is two or three times more potent than delta 9 THC have clearly not taken THC-O and are just repeating what they’ve read somewhere. I’m uber sensitive to THC, so I would know.

The high you get from THC-O is also totally different from the high that you get with any of the deltas, so comparing them in potency doesn’t even seem to make sense to me.

How does THC-O feel?

THC-O is a slow burner. In fact, it may take you a while to figure out that you’re even stoned. The first time I tried it was in a vape with some friends and we didn’t notice anything at all. Knowing what I know now, I realize that we were all far too cautious that first time because we were all expecting it to be like delta 9, but hella stronger. 

I had some friends round and after an hour or so, everyone gave up trying to feel something from it and switched to their other preferred ‘noids. Can you imagine us all sitting there for that hour though? I’m saying “hold on tight guys, this is going to be mental” … (clock ticks 🦗)

I wondered if the vape was a dud, so I moved onto the gummies and while I’ll say that I definitely do get high from them, the psychoactive effects are very different from anything I’ve tried before. It will only make sense after you’ve tried it, but the high you get from THC-O is a much less intoxicating, more lucid experience than any other type of THC I’ve tried. 

I feel super relaxed (one time my housemate even commented on my supremely chill vibes) and another thing I notice (on the gummies) is that I have tons of deep and positive thoughts.

I feel high, but more clear-headed and capable. The fact that I can still form sentences after a 25mg gummy is proof of that, whereas a 25mg D9 gummy would have me straight on the struggle bus.

I realize that what I’m describing doesn’t sound like any high you know (clear-headed, lucid?), but there’s no doubt that that’s what it is, but it’s a totally new way of feeling high. It’s pretty cool.

Overall, I really like the way THC-O makes me feel, but (as I said) I am sensitive to THC. One of my friends (who smokes a lot of D9), says that THC-O did nothing for him, but this might be because his tolerance to THC is so much higher than mine, so he’d probably need an entire bag of gummies and I’m not willing to part with that many to find out.

To be honest, I’d take HHC over THC-O every time. HHC is smoother, has a more natural high and feels more powerful. Read all about my experience with HHC here.

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Is THC-O psychedelic?

I wouldn’t personally describe THC-O as psychedelic per say, but it does have some psychedelic effects for some people. Not because it produces hallucinations, but because it can make you feel like your mind has been opened up to a larger or new kind of awareness.

I know quite a few people now that have tried THC-O and have also connected with hundreds of other experienced users online. I’ve learned that not everyone who’s tried THC-O experiences this “expansion of consciousness”. This seems to be vaguely connected to both your tolerance level of THC and potentially your previous experience with other psychedelics.

A lower tolerance to THC in general seems to produce more pronounced effects, which makes it more likely that you’ll feel this transcendence and a background in psychedelics may also open you up to the possibility of flashbacks or some kind of deja-vu of the come up.

I can definitely see that THC-O has certain psychedelic properties and have personally felt more “connected to the universe” after taking it, but I also think the same of THC in general (when you smoke or take a lot of it).

The reason I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as psychedelic is that I think it would give people the wrong expectations. When most people think of psychedelic, they’re specifically referring to Fear and Loathing sh*t, and this isn’t that.

Read about my experience with Delta 10

How long does it take for THC-O to kick in?

THC-O is a slow burner, which is why dosing can be much harder than normal and why I struggle with the vape. THC-O is a prodrug, which means it has to be metabolized before the you feel any effects from it. When you vaped THC-O, you should feel effects in around 20 minutes and when you take THC-O gummies, it may take more like an hour to kick in.

I would recommend leaving a little longer than that before taking a second dose, just to err on the side of caution. Perhaps 30 minutes for vaping and 1.5hrs for edibles, because too much is never fun (although we can laugh about it later).

How long does THC-O last?

The effects of THC-O usually last for several hours, but it will depend on how you consume it. If you vape THC-O, the effects may come on in 30 minutes and last 1-3 hours. If you take a THC-O gummy, then the effects have a slower onset and usually stick around for around 4-6 hours.

What’s the difference between THC-O and Delta 8?

When you compare THCO-O vs delta 8, effects-wise, I’d say that delta 8 is much more similar to delta 9 THC, but it’s a smoother, more mellow high. THC-O feels different for me as the high is less obvious to begin with, producing a more clear-headed and capable kind of high.

In short

I really like THC-O, but elsewhere online it’s totally over-hyped which spoils it for a lot of people. Regular Delta-9 THC is, without a doubt, the more potent cannabinoid. Strength-wise, I’d probably place THC-O in roughly the same area as delta 8, but it has a totally different offering that would be great for occasions where you want to feel high, inspired by deep, random thoughts, but not be totally intoxicated.

The level of introspection you can achieve with THC-O makes it an ideal accompaniment to mediation and yoga practice, and I also know a lot of people who like taking THC-O before going to parties and clubs. In fact, it’s already being dubbed the new club cannabis because of it’s apparent lack of intoxication of the senses.

I’d start with one gummy as a test, but I personally think two gummies (2x 25mg) is better. I also noticed that it’s becoming incredibly popular to use THC-O to enhance your other highs. So I’m looking forward to trying a delta 8 and THC-O gummy together one day, or perhaps I’ll take a D8 gummy and then smoke a THC-O cigarette. I’ll report back.

What do you think of THC-O? Does it sound like something you want to try for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

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