THC-O: What You Need to Know
Sat, Jun 26, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Chances are you’re already familiar with delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC, and CBD.
What about THC-O, though?
Unless you’re among the most seasoned cannabinoid connoisseurs, you’ve probably never even heard of THC-O before.
Hey, we don’t blame you. THC-O doesn’t get nearly as much press as other cannabinoids. Nor is it all that easy to understand.
And yet THC-O is nonetheless emerging from the fringes of cannabis culture as a powerful, practical means of boosting one’s health.
This article is designed to bring THC-O the credit it deserves. In it we’ll be looking at what THC-O is, what it does, and how it could be the perfect addition to your cannabis/hemp routine.
- What Is THC-O?
- THC-O vs. other cannabinoids
- THC vs. THC-O
- What makes THC-O so special
- Should I try THC-O?
What Is THC-O?
First, though, a little disclaimer: this article also dives into THC-O’s nitty gritty chemistry. Just a little bit of science is needed for you to really appreciate this cannabinoid’s goodness…
THC-O is short for THC-O-Acetate — which can also be found under the names THC Acetate and ATHC. 
(Note that ATHC is not the same as THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.) 
The biggest difference between THC-O and other cannabinoids, however, is more than a matter of acronyms. Unlike other cannabinoids, ATHC can only be produced in the lab.
The conversion goes something like this THCa + heat > D9-THC + sulfuric acid + acetic anhydride = THC-O-Acetate.
Note that this process should only be undertaken by an experienced chemist in a clean, controlled laboratory setting! Sulfuric acid is a dangerous, corrosive chemical, and acetic anhydride is both corrosive and explosive. 
THC-O vs other cannabinoids
So, that’s where THC-O is comes from. Interesting stuff, right? Let’s now zoom out a little bit and compare THC-O’s effects to those of other cannabinoids.
By definition, each and every cannabinoid interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid receptors in some way. Almost all cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant — thus their name — but more recently cannabinoids have also been found in other plants. 
Here’s one example: beta-caryphyllene, found in black pepper and cloves, is a terpene that has also since been reclassified as a cannabinoid. 
Anyways, THC-O is similar to THC or delta-9 THC in the sense that it binds to endocannabinoid receptors in your brain.
Unlike these other substances, however, THC-O binds directly to your brain’s sensitive CB1 receptors. This binding affinity gives it extremely powerful — some would say spiritual — effects.
THC vs. THC-O
THC and THC-O are analogs, which means they have the same chemical composition but a slightly different chemical structure.
On the upper right side of the ‘regular’ THC molecule, you’ll see an OH, or hydroxyl group. 
On the same part of the THC-O molecule, you’ll see a distinctly different attachment: an acetate molecule. What does this molecule do? It makes the accompanying THC molecule even stronger!
What makes THC-O so special
THC-O’s distinctive chemical properties give it several distinctive physical properties. The specificity of our body’s endocannabinoid receptors — and the interesting ways these receptors help us process the flow of energy — means that THC-O’s slightly different shape leads to way different effects.
Here are the highlights.
Like most cannabinoids, THC-O is a fat-soluble compound that normally resides in the oily resin of the cannabinoid plant. (This solubility explains why CBD oil is so popular.)
Unlike other cannabinoids, however, THC-O’s solubility means it gets time-released. THC-O products kick in almost like a cannabis edible would — slower but more powerfully than normal.
Once you’ve ingested or smoked some THC-O, get ready: studies show it can be 300% stronger than regular THC!  THC acetate’s strength makes it perfect for more medical uses. For example, it really shines for those dealing with intense nausea or chronic pain.
If you’re trying THC-O for the first time, we’d recommend starting slow. You can always increase your dose later once you get a feel for things. Too much THC-O can result in you getting way too high.
Many people who’ve taken THC-O describe it as spiritual and introspective, almost like tripping on LSD or magic mushrooms would be. As mentioned above, THC-O takes a while to kick in as your body strips THC-O’s THC from its acetate molecule.
Once it kicks in though, boom — expect powerful feelings of euphoria without any couch-lock side effects. THC-O’s lack of ‘body high’ means it’s a great companion for outdoor activities like ski trips or hikes.
Should I try THC-O?
While only you can answer that question, we can give you some pointers.
If you’re looking for any or all of the following, THC-O is probably for you:
- Enhanced creativity
- A spiritual experience
- A psychedelic experience
- Inner work and introspection
- Powerful relief from aches and pains
- A couch-lock-free mental high
- Other therapeutic uses
If you’re looking for a more mild experience and relate more to the stuff below, then you might want to stick with CBD or delta-8 THC:
- Better sleep
- Mood improvements
- Gut health/digestive benefits
- Improved athletic performance
Regardless of what cannabinoid(s) you decide on, quality matters. Please don’t pull a Walter White and try to make the stuff in your garage. Buy, don’t DIY!
Professionals from a trusted dispensary or your favorite CBD brand can both help when it comes to sourcing THC-O.
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- P. (2020). Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate. PubChem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Tetrahydrocannabinol-acetate
- Beadle, A. (2020, July 27). THCA Vs THC: What Are the Differences? Analytical Cannabis. https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/thca-vs-thc-what-are-the-differences-312205
- V. (2017, September 15). Sulfuric Acid Safety Tips – Sulfuric Acid MSDS Information. MSDSonline. https://www.msdsonline.com/2014/07/22/sulfuric-acid-safety-tips-sulfuric-acid-msds-information/#:%7E:text=If%20sulfuric%20acid%20makes%20direct,tract%20irritation%20and%20tissue%20damage.
- P. (2020a). Acetic anhydride. PubChem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Acetic-anhydride
- What are cannabinoids? Where can cannabinoids be found? (2020). Fundacion Canna. https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/cannabinoids
- Gertsch, J. (2008c, July 1). Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. PNAS. https://www.pnas.org/content/105/26/9099
- Wikipedia contributors. (2021b, June 19). Hydroxy group. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroxy_group#:%7E:text=A%20hydroxy%20or%20hydroxyl%20group,one%20or%20more%20hydroxy%20groups.
- P. (2020b). Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate. PubChem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Tetrahydrocannabinol-acetate
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