MAR 21, 2024 5:46 PM PDT

11% of 12th-Graders Report Using Delta-8-THC

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Around 11% of 12th-grade students in the US reported using delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC or ‘delta-8’) in the past year. The corresponding study was published in JAMA

Delta-8 is a psychoactive cannabinoid typically derived from hemp. It is an isomer of delta-9 THC, commonly known as THC, which is known to produce the ‘highs’ often associated with cannabis. Delta-8 has similar intoxicating effects as THC. 

Currently, there is no federal minimum age requirement for purchasing Delta-8 products. Nevertheless, data on their use among adolescents in the US has been lacking. 

In the current study, researchers sought to address this research gap. To do so, they analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 2,186 12th-grade students in 27 US states from the Monitoring the Future Study, which included an in-school survey administered from February to June 2023. 

Ultimately, they found that around 11% of students reported past-year use of delta-8. Of those who used delta-8, almost 91% also reported using marijuana, contributing to around 30% of 12th graders overall who reported using the drug in the past year.

“11% is a lot of people – that’s at least one or two students in every average-sized high school class who may be using delta-8. We don’t know enough about these drugs, but we see that they are already extremely accessible to teens,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a press release

 “Cannabis use in general has been associated with negative impacts on the adolescent brain, so we must pay attention to the kinds of cannabis products teens are using, educate young people about potential risks, and ensure that treatment for cannabis use disorder and adequate mental health care is provided to those who need it," she added. 

The researchers also found that delta-8 usage was more common in the South and Midwest states and in states without cannabis legalization or delta-8 regulations. While 14% and 15% of 12th graders reported using the substance in the South and Midwest, the same was true for 10% and 5% in the Northeast and the West. They further found that around 14% of students in states without cannabis legalization used delta-8, compared to 8% in states with legalization. They noted, however, that cannabis uses did not differ by state-level cannabis policies. 

The researchers wrote that as the survey was carried out in a school setting, they may not have been able to gather data from students who were absent, not enrolled, or with less school engagement- factors related to drug use- which may have led to an underestimation of adolescent delta-8 use. 


Sources: EurekAlertJAMA

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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