dried green substance on surface

THC-O was tested to see if rumors of psychedelic properties are true. They aren’t (sorry).

New research from the University at Buffalo, challenging the hype surrounding THC-O-acetate, a new cannabinoid derivative, serves as a potent reminder of the ongoing challenges posed by the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the study, led by Dr. Daniel J. Kruger, debunked claims that THC-O-acetate induces a psychedelic experience comparable to LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.

Dr. Daniel J. Kruger, the lead author of the study, stressed the importance of their findings. “THC-O-acetate has been getting a lot of attention because people are saying it’s stronger than regular THC and there are these claims that it produces psychedelic effects. We wanted to study this and see, is there really a psychedelic cannabinoid? And the answer is, not so much,” Kruger explained.

The study focused on THC-O-acetate, a semi-synthetic compound derived from delta-8 THC, a cannabinoid that has attracted considerable interest recently. The researchers surveyed around 300 participants on their experiences with THC-O-acetate. They inquired about the extent of various experiences, such as altered time perception, euphoria, anxiety, and hallucinations. The findings were then cross-referenced with the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ), a well-established tool for assessing psychedelic experiences.

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The results revealed a sharp contrast with the online claims. According to the study, a significant 79% of users reported that using THC-O-acetate was “not at all” or only “a little” of a psychedelic experience. Furthermore, users who had previous experience with classic psychedelics scored even lower on all MEQ dimensions. The most commonly reported sensations were moderate relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief.

Dr. Jessica S. Kruger, co-author of the study, speculated on the reasons behind the contrasting experiences. “It may be due to expectations based on what users have heard or read. Some users may have experienced a very intense high and thought it was psychedelic. Or, the product may have contained a contaminant,” she stated. The possibility of contamination, she warned, highlighted a significant public health concern, as many products don’t provide enough information about their contents.

The cannabis plant’s rich chemical composition includes about 100 unique cannabinoids. THC and CBD are the most researched compounds due to their prevalent active properties. THC’s psychoactive properties have drawn specific interest, as it binds with the brain’s CB1 receptors, part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), mimicking endocannabinoids and resulting in the famous ‘high’ sensation.

Despite the scientific intrigue, many cannabinoids, including THC-O-acetate, are still shrouded in mystery due to limited research. The 2018 Farm Bill, while legalizing hemp cultivation, inadvertently opened a floodgate of new, often unregulated, products containing CBD and other cannabinoid derivatives.

Reflecting on these challenges, Dr. Daniel Kruger emphasized, “They’re really new to the consumer market and cannabis still has this weird mix of policies where it’s illegal at the federal level, so we don’t have national regulations, certainly not the kind of testing you’d have with a prescription drug.” Therefore, studies like theirs are crucial for demystifying the new cannabinoids and fostering a safe environment in the swiftly expanding world of cannabis.


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