THC-O vs. Delta 8: A Detailed Breakdown

By | Updated on January 14, 2024

Evidence Based 7

Key takeaways:

  • Delta-8 THC and THC-O are two forms of THC, the main intoxicating component of cannabis. But delta-8 occurs naturally and is weaker than regular (delta-9) THC, whereas THC-O is fully synthetic and has much stronger (~3x) effects.
  • Both can lead to common THC side effects like dry mouth and anxiety, with THC-O having stronger effects. But the bigger safety concern is how delta-8 and THC-O are made, so you should only choose third-party tested products from reputable brands.
  • When choosing between Delta-8 and THC-O, consider potency and safety. Delta-8 is suitable for those seeking a milder experience, while THC-O appeals to those looking for potent effects.

Delta-8 and THC-O are two popular intoxicating cannabinoids derived from hemp. They’re both forms of THC, the main intoxicating component of cannabis. Delta-8 and THC-O are made through a chemical process and come with potential safety risks, so it’s essential to understand exactly what they are.

In this evidence-based guide, we’ll look at their origins, potency, safety, consumption methods, and more.

The Origins of THC-O Vs Delta 8

Delta-8-THC, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol as it’s formally known, occurs in hemp but only in minute amounts. That’s why most of the delta-8 products you see on the market are made through a chemical process that turns purified cannabidiol (CBD) into delta-8-THC.

On the other hand, tetrahydrocannabinol-O-acetate (THC-O-acetate or just THC-O) isn’t found naturally. Instead, it’s produced synthetically by acetylating delta 9 THC, which chemically alters the cannabinoid’s structure to increase its potency. 

In that sense, it’s similar to HHC, another synthetic cannabinoid that’s growing in popularity.

Delta-8 Potency

Research and user anecdotes suggest that delta-8-THC is significantly weaker than regular (delta-9 THC) (1). That’s why if you’re looking for less intense and more clear-headed effects, delta-8 THC is a good alternative to regular marijuana. 

But delta-8 can still provide all the classical marijuana effects, including relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, and hunger (2).

THC-O Potency

THC-O is believed to be one of the most potent forms of THC available. It’s said to be three times stronger than delta-9 THC, although more research is needed to substantiate this number (3). It can provide the same benefits as delta-9 THC but at a much higher intensity.

THC-O is often called the “‘spiritual cannabinoid” because some users have reported intense psychedelic experiences. However, this claim may be overblown. A 2023 study out of the University of Buffalo surveyed nearly 300 people who used THC-O products, finding that 79% responded that they felt none or at all or little psychedelic effects (4).

Strength of THC-O vs. Delta 8

The potency of THC-O vs Delta 8 is the key factor that distinguishes these two intoxicating cannabinoids. 

Delta 8 is less potent than its regular (delta-9) counterpart. While it works in the same way — by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain — it doesn’t have quite the same strength or effect.

This makes for a smoother, clearer high that’s less likely to result in anxiety or paranoia. It’s like riding a bike with training wheels — you get some speed, but there’s less risk involved.

In contrast, THC-O-acetate packs quite a punch. Think about upgrading from your beginner guitar to one used by rockstars — you’ll play louder and harder tunes.

These potency levels are not a “good vs. bad” comparison but rather about the individual’s preferences and needs. Some folks might prefer the gentler ride of Delta 8, while others may seek out the more intense high offered by THC-O.

Safety Concerns

It’s important to touch on the safety of delta-8 THC and THC-O. In particular, there are two areas to focus on: the potential side effects of these cannabinoids and how they’re manufactured.

Delta-8 & THC-O Side Effects

For starters, both delta-8 THC and THC-O are capable of producing the classic side effects of THC, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Anxiety & panic
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Distorted perception of time

For example, one 2023 study reported the case of an 18-year-old male who experienced a panic attack for two hours after vaping THC-O (5).

These side effects are more likely with THC-O since it’s more potent, but delta-8 THC can also cause them, especially at higher dosages. 

It’s crucial to start with low doses when trying these cannabinoids to gauge your body’s response, especially if you’re new to THC as a whole.

Delta-8 & THC-O Production

The bigger safety concern with delta-8 and THC-O is whether they’re manufactured safely. Both are created through manmade chemical processes, so there is potential for contamination.

Especially for THC-O, the process involves working with specialized equipment and serious chemicals like acetic anhydride.

Whereas experienced manufacturers can ensure harmful compounds are removed, less scrupulous individuals may create potentially harmful products. 

For example, a 2021 investigation by the US Cannabis Council found that some commercially available delta-8 THC products contained small amounts of heavy metals (6).

Meanwhile, a 2023 study by University of California researchers warned that vaping THC-O may cause lung injury, leading to an outbreak similar to the 2019-2020 e-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).

Last but not least, it’s common for delta-8 and THC-O products to contain inaccurate levels of THC (different from what it says on the label). Many also contain additional delta-9 THC. That’s why it’s important to choose products from trustworthy brands backed by third-party testing from reputable labs.

Methods of Consumption

The ways you can enjoy both Delta 8 and THC-O are varied, from edibles to inhalable products.

Edibles and Tinctures

Edibles like gummies and chocolate are one common way folks get their dose of these cannabinoids. Meanwhile, people used to supplements may prefer capsules and softgels. Another option is oil tinctures; they’re quite versatile because you can use them in different ways and easily control the dosage.

Inhalable Products

Vaping has gained popularity as a method for consuming cannabinoids, providing quick effects and diverse flavors. It’s crucial, however, to note the associated health risks, including potential lung issues (7). 

Apart from vapes, smoking flowers coated in concentrated cannabinoid oils offers another option for those who prefer traditional methods over techy tools. 

In summary, while various consumption methods exist, it is essential to approach Delta 8 and THC-O with caution and awareness of potential health concerns.

Potential Benefits

Their recreational effects aside, both delta-8 and THC-O are also used for their potential health benefits.

One common reason people use them is for the sense of relaxation they can bring. Some use this effect to relax and destress after a long day, whereas others use it to help them fall asleep.

Still, it’s important to reiterate that any form of THC can have the opposite effect, inducing anxiety and related side effects. It all depends on how the individual responds to THC and the dose they take.

THC is also used for its appetite-stimulating effects, with delta-8 and THC-O being no different. Some users also report improved mood, but this effect is not yet backed by research. 

Choosing Between Delta 8 and THC-O

If you’re deciding between Delta 8 and THC-O, the two main factors are potency and safety considerations. 

On the potency side, most people find that Delta 8 gives them a more relaxed high compared to regular THC, making it ideal for those who want the benefits without intense psychoactive effects.

In contrast, THC-O is more suitable for experienced THC users looking for something stronger. 

Meanwhile, on the safety side, delta-8 THC products are undoubtedly more safe than their THC-O for two reasons:

  1. Their effects are less intense and less likely to cause side effects
  2. The process used to create delta-8 THC is safer and less likely to produce harmful compounds than the one used for THC-O.


Whether it’s because you live in a state where marijuana is illegal or want to try a weaker or stronger form of THC, delta-8 and THC-O offer an alternative. However, it’s crucial to consider the side effects and safety concerns of these products, especially with THC-O. 

If you’re interested in trying these products, be sure to understand the potential risks and do plenty of research to find reputable brands backed by third-party lab test reports and positive customer reviews.


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