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THC-O-Acetate: What do I Need To Know

What is THC-O-Acetate

The cannabis plant is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. People use the cannabis plant’s dried leaves, seed oil, and other parts for recreational and medical purposes. The plant also produces a group of substances called cannabinoids which are known to provide therapeutic effects and may help soothe the symptoms of a wide variety of health conditions including chronic pain. 

Over 400 chemical compounds are naturally occurring in the cannabis plant and 60 of these compounds are called cannabinoids. The two most popular cannabinoids in the cannabis industry are called THC and CBD, known to have therapeutic properties including pain reduction. A newfound minor cannabinoid is beginning to see market prevalence called THC-O-Acetate. This article will help you understand the differences between certain cannabinoids and how they can help with particular conditions. 

What is THC-O-Acetate?

THC-O-Acetate (ATHC) or THC-O is a semi-synthetic derivative of the delta-9 THC, which is the main psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant. THC-O is also sometimes referred to as a “spiritual cannabinoid”. Because THC-O is converted from delta-9 THC, it induces a euphoric high similar to delta-9 with more hallucinogenic and psychedelic effects. THC-O is said to be three times more potent than delta-9 and five times more potent than delta-8 THC, another hemp derivative.

Once converted, THC-O becomes a thick brown liquid. You can take it in a vape cartridge, an edible, or a tincture. It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the effects to kick in. Although THC-O is not as mainstream as THC and CBD, it is becoming popular among cannabis users, especially in the US where the use of cannabis is legal.

Is THC-O a Natural Cannabinoid?

Unlike Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), THC-O is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid present in the hemp plant. THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid converted from delta-9 THC and produced under controlled conditions in a laboratory and synthesized through a chemical process using the chemical acetic anhydride. This acetic anhydride that is part of the process is extremely flammable and potentially explosive.

Why isn't THC-O Water Soluble?

The process of producing THC-O Acetate yields an isolated cannabinoid that is highly fat-soluble, therefore not water-soluble. Also, the unique nature of THC-O means that the methods to convert it into a water-soluble solution cannot be applied as they can with CBD and other compounds. This means that THC-O is not as bioavailable as water-soluble conversions of cannabinoids available on the market. However, THC-O molecules are said to be more potent than ingested, smoked, or dabbed THC.

Is THC-O Stronger Than Regular THC?

Lab tests show that THC-O is three times stronger than regular THC due to an acetate molecule. THC-O can stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in your brain the way regular THC can’t. Also, THC-O’s purpose is to provide medical effects including pain relief, anti-anxiety, and chronic pain relief.

If you’re considering using THC-O for the first, start at the smallest possible dosage and increase slowly as THC-O is very strong and can cause unwanted side effects.

Is THC-O Legal in the UK?

Currently, in the UK, cannabis is classified as a class B drug, and all cannabis products that contain delta-9 and delta-8 THC are illegal whereas CBD products from the hemp plant are legal. It is unclear if THC-O is illegal in the UK but since the psychoactive effects of the two substances are similar, we can assume that delta-8 is prohibited in the UK as well. Individuals caught possessing, distributing, selling, and growing cannabis in the UK will be fined and/or get up to 14 years imprisonment.

In the US, the Analogue Act defines a "controlled substance analogue" as any substance that has a similar chemical structure to a schedule I or II controlled substance and a substantially similar stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system. 

What's the difference in Chemical structure?

THC and THC-O have the same molecular structure. However, they also have certain components that differ from each other. In this case, THC is the compound that is converted to make THC-O. Here’s a comparison between the THC and THC-O molecules:

Chemical structure of THC and THC-O
Chemical structures

You will see that the THC molecule has an OH, whereas the THC-O molecule has an O and a new set of lines. This new set of lines is the acetate molecule or the “A” in ATHC. This addition of the acetate molecule makes the THC molecule stronger and sets ATHC apart from the regular THC and makes it special.

What are the effects of THC-O?

Like THC, THC-O carries psychoactive effects and feelings of euphoria and is said to be three times stronger than the regular THC. THC stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, food, and sex. It unleashes the chemical dopamine, which gives you joy, consciousness expansion, psychedelic effects, and also a euphoric and relaxed feeling.

When you use the vaping method, THC could get into your bloodstream quickly and can get you high within a few minutes and peak in about 30 minutes. THC's psychedelic effects through vaping will wear off in 1 to 3 hours. If you prefer to ingest edibles with the THC compound, it may take 45 minutes to an hour for you to feel the effects and peal at about 4 hours. The effects can last up to 12 hours after use.

Because of the prodrug nature of THC-O, there’s a noticeable delay in the psychedelic effects of this substance. While delta-9 THC usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes to kick in when taken orally, THC-O can take up to an hour before the effects are felt.

Does THC-O have medical effects?

While not much is known about the potential benefits and real effects of THC-O, those people who use this cannabinoid believe it can help to relieve pain, boost appetite, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety. Given its potency, individuals who use large amounts of regular THC may find relief from using little THC-O.

Many users also mentioned that although there’s a delay in the onset effects of THC-O, once the real effects appear, the onset is rapid. They mentioned that they feel the peak effects just 15 to 20 minutes after the first wave.

Despite its possible health benefits, the lack of regulation and testing means plenty of concerns about THC-O’s safety.

Is THC-O-Acetate Safe?

The reality of THC-O is that there are not enough research and clinical trials to make a conclusive claim that it is safe. However, it is promising that there have not been any reported overdoses from using the substance. As THC-O is not well-regulated, and semi-synthetic, there are risks involved in using it. A medical adviser to New Zealand's first medicinal cannabis company named Dr Ethan Russo does not recommend the use of THC-O due to the inherent danger of the process of making it and the potential toxicity of the product and its illegality.

Historically, the use of synthetic compounds including synthetic cannabinoids has resulted in psychosis, kidney damage, lung injury, seizures, and other health problems. Overall, while THC-O doesn’t seem to be unsafe, it’s not necessarily safe either. Use caution when buying and consuming a THC-O product and try to look for scientific research and law surrounding this cannabinoid.

What are the side effects of using THC-O-Acetate?

THC-O is a strong substance and it’s common for users to experience undesirable side effects as it is known to be three times stronger than THC. Consumers who have used THC-O also report having experienced side effects including:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Paranoia
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

THC-O is a synthetic derivative of cannabis and causes psychoactive effects like delta-9 THC. More research is needed to know about THC-O’s short-term and long-term effects. If you want to try using THC-O, start with smaller amounts and increase the dosage once you’re familiar with how it will affect your body.

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