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United States of America

“Move over, CBD,” says a recent article published in Forbes. “Delta-8 THC is on the scene now...and it’s the breakout cannabinoid of the year.” [1

Delta-8 isn’t perfect, however, as it can cause complications on drug tests. Here’s what you need to know about delta-8 and drug testing. 

  • What is delta-8 THC?
  • Is delta-8 THC actually safe?
  • The fascinating way delta-8 works
  • Will delta-8 show up on a drug test?
  • How long does delta-8 THC stay in your system?

What is delta-8 THC?

A close relative of regular THC, delta-8 THC is what chemists call a THC isomer, meaning it has the same chemical composition but a different chemical arrangement. Yet this minute difference between D-8 and D-9 results in radically different effects. Delta-8 THC has quickly risen to prominence in states where cannabis is illegal. Why? Because it provides a hemp-derived, fully legal high.  


Delta 8’s rising popularity stems from 2018’s Federal Farm Bill, legislation that legalized each and every hemp-derived cannabinoid in existence — with the singular exception of ‘regular’ delta-9 THC. The first cannabinoid to receive extra attention was CBD, though public attention has since moved on to trace cannabinoids like D-8, D-10, and THCv. [2][3]

Is delta-8 THC actually safe?

Yep — delta-8 THC is indeed totally safe. Like any other naturally-produced cannabinoid, delta-8 is mostly free from side effects, and it can’t be overdosed on. There’s a huge difference between an efficacious dose of D-8 and a lethal one. Based on this “therapeutic margin,” D-8 actually has a higher safety profile than the following products: [4


  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • NSAIDs
  • Caffeine
  • Water

Like CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids, delta-8 is also totally safe to travel with. Here’s some additional info from a top cannabis law firm: [5]


“At best, hemp-derived delta-8 THC isomerized from CBD might fall into the category of a ‘semisynthetic’ […] because the 2018 Farm Bill included hemp derivatives, [however, delta-8 appears] to be deemed hemp and not a controlled substance.”


Long story short, the Farm Bill’s original language is ambiguous enough to have legalized delta-8, deeming it just as legal on the federal level as CBD or CBG. 

The fascinating way delta-8 works

Delta-8 THC may have all sorts of beneficial properties. According to the National Cancer Institute D-8 may be “anxiolytic, antiemetic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective.” [6]


What makes D-8 so effective? Its ability to bind to both CB1 (like regular THC) and CB2 (like CBD). D-8’s dual binding ability also explains the cannabinoid’s strong-but-balanced mental effects. Unlike regular THC, delta-8 may actually improve memory by boosting your brain’s levels of compounds like acetylcholine. [7


That’s the good news. The bad news is that D-8 still has one unresolved issue: it will show up on a drug test. 

Will delta-8 show up on a drug test?

D-8 is fully legal — but standard drug testing protocols haven’t yet adjusted to detect its slight chemical differences from the illegal delta-9.


In other words, the ‘point of care’  urinalysis tests most companies use can’t always distinguish between delta-8 and less legal cannabinoids. Cannabis expert Ian Bush explains more:

 

“Drug tests typically test for metabolites left behind by consumption and not the chemical itself, and since D8 bonds to the same receptors and gets metabolized the same way...well, you get it.” [8]


And delta-8 THC isn’t the only legal cannabinoid that runs into this type of problem. Delta-10 THC, THC-O, THCv, and THCa may also present similar problems. Your body’s digestive enzymes can convert any of these compounds into a metabolite called 11-hydroxy THC, essentially providing a red flag that sets off most drug tests.


Experts refer to this flaw as “cross-reactivity.” In other words, legal cannabinoids can react with drug tests in such a way that it looks like you’re doing something illegal...even if you’re not.  


Making matters even more complex, a 2020 study found that delta-8 was more cross-reactive than CBB, CBN, CBC, and CBG...meaning delta-8 makes it easier for tests to spot other THC metabolites. 


The study’s researchers tested the cross-reactivity of four cannabinoids (CBD, CBN, CBC, and CBG)...and found that CBN was most likely to trigger false positives. Interestingly enough, CBN also made the presence of other THC metabolites easier for immunoassays to spot. The study’s authors explained that their findings are intended to “ help guide the need for confirmatory testing when results of THC metabolite testing by immunoassay are inconsistent with expectations.”[9


In other words, until urine drug tests become more advanced...those who take D-8 may need to speak to their employers about the need for confirmation testing. More on this type of testing and what it does coming up next! 

What to do if you have a ’false positive’ for delta-8 THC

So, let’s say you’re taking legal hemp-derived D-8 and test positive for THC on a point of care drug test. 


What do you do next? First, don’t panic! Your employer will likely order a confirmation test. This type of testing uses more nuanced gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to correctly distinguish between D-8 and D-9. In virtually all cases, confirmation testing will confirm that you’ve been taking delta-8 and not an illegal compound. 

How long does delta-8 THC stay in your system? 

Like most other cannabinoids, delta-8 THC may stay in your body’s circulatory system and/or fat stores for several weeks. If you wish to avoid the drama involved with ‘false positive’ drug tests, you can simply stop taking D-8 products before your next drug screening. Feel free to temporarily swap out your delta-8 for some full spectrum CBD — after all, CBD possesses many of the same health benefits! 


On the right side, it’s only a matter of time until drug test protocols catch up to delta-8 THC’s legality. Our culture will only grow more and more friendly towards hemp and its cannabinoids as time goes on. 

Delta-8 THC and drug testing: summing things up

At five ™ CBD+ THC we carry a variety of delta-8 THC products, including delicious D-8 infused gummies. You can enjoy these premium products without any fear of having an actual positive drug test. 


Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to be proactive and talk to your employer about how delta-8 drug testing works ahead of time.


Citations


  1. Siebert, A. (2020, September 18). Move Over CBD: Rare Cannabinoids Shaking Up Cannabis And Hemp Products. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/amandasiebert/2020/09/17/move-over-cbd-rare-cannabinoids-shaking-up-cannabis-and-hemp-products/?sh=1beda444b089 
  2. Hudak, J. (2018, December 13). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/ 
  3. Statista. (2021, September 10). Total U.S. cannabidiol (CBD) product sales 2014–2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/760498/total-us-cbd-sales/ 
  4. Watanabe, K. (1981). Metabolic disposition of delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol and its active metabolites, 11-hydroxy-delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-oxo-delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol, in mice. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6113937/ 
  5. Coats Rose. (2020). Coats and Rose. https://www.coatsrose.com/ 
  6. NCI Drug Dictionary. (2020). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol?redirect=true 
  7. Tripathi, H. L. (1987). Effects of cannabinoids on levels of acetylcholine and choline and on turnover rate of acetylcholine in various regions of the mouse brain. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3620017/ 
  8. Norris, R. (2020, December 9). So Long, CBD—Delta-8 Is the Latest THC Substitute That’ll Help You Zen Out. HelloGiggles. https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/what-is-delta-8-thc/ 
  9. Cannabinol (CBN) Cross-Reacts with Two Urine Immunoassays Designed to Detect Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Metabolite. (2020). Academic.Oup.Com. https://academic.oup.com/jalm/article-abstract/5/3/569/5811388



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